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Volume 3 November, 1984 

DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is published by the Conference of the Nuns of the 
Order of Preachers of the United States of America. The Conference is an organ- 
ization of independent monasteries whose purpose is to foster the monastic contem- 
plative life of the nuns in the spirit of Saint Dominic. 

Sister Mary of God, O.P. (North Guilford) 

Sister Mary Catherine, O.P., Coordinator (Elmira) 
Sister Mary Martin, O.P. (Summit) Sister Mary of Jesus, O.P. (Bronx) 

Business Management: Sister Mary of the Immaculate Conception, O.P. 

Sister Mary of the Sacred Heart, O.P. (West Springfield) 

DOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is a spiritual and theological review written by 
the nuns. Its purpose is to foster the Dominican monastic contemplative life by 
the sharing of insights gained from study and prayer. It is published once a year 
as a service to the nuns. It is also available to the wider Dominican Family and 
others upon request, from whom a donation of $4.00 to aid in the cost of printing 
would be appreciated, when possible. 

Contributions to this review should be researched and prepared with concern 
for literary and intellectual quality. Manuscripts submitted should be clearly 
typed, single spaced, on one side of the paper only. The deadline for manuscripts 
is October 1st of each year. Monor editing will be done at the discretion of the 
editors. If major changes are desired, these will be effected in dialogue with 
the authors. The editors, in consultation with the Conference Council, reserve 
the right to reject inappropriate manuscripts, though reasons will be given to 
the authors with courtesy and encouragement. The Open Forum section is offered 
to those nuns who would like the opportunity to express their ideas briefly and 
informally, and to encourage dialogue among the nuns on spiritual subjects. Each 
separate contribution to Open Forum should be limited to approximately 500 words. 

All book reviews and poetry should be sent to Sister Mary of Jesus (Bronx) . 
Open Forum contributions should be sent to Sister Mary Martin (Summit) . All 
other articles should be sent to Sister Mary Catherine (Elmira) . 


All Rights Reserved 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

CARLI: Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois 


Editorial 1 

Informal Comments of the Master of the Order 5 

Most Rev. Damian Byrne, O.P. 

The Basic Constitution of the Order 15 

Rev. Gabriel O'Donnell, O.P. 

The Basic Constitution of the Nuns 22 

Sr. Mary of God, O.P. (North Guilford) 

The Following of Christ through Religious Consecration as Dominican Nuns . . 34 
Sr. M. Catherine, O.P. (Elmira) 

Aspects of Religious Consecration 48 

Rev. Boniface Ramsey, O.P. 

Dominican Study and the Experience of God 53 

Rev. Liam Walsh, O.P. 

The Value and Practice of Lectio Divina 68 

Sr. Mary Magdalen, O.P. (Newark) 

Dominican Government Today: I 82 

Rev. Thomas Doyle, O.P. 

Dominican Government Today: II 93 

Rev. Thomas Doyle, O.P. 

The Prayer of St. Dominic and the Early Dominicans: II 119 

Sr. Mary Martin, O.P. (Summit) 

Graced Creation 128 

Sr. Maria of the Holy Eucharist, O.P. (West Springfield) 

The Content of Anxiety and the Dark Side of Prayer . 129 

Sr. Mary Francis, O.P. (Farmington Hills) 

Covenant 134 

Sr. Mary Dolores, O.P. (North Guilford) 

He Sings in Silence 138 

Sr. Frances Clare, O.P. (Bronx) 

The Ideal of a Dominican Contemplative Nun 139 

Sr. Mary Rose Dominic, O.P. (Summit) 

Community Hour - Meditatio 148 

Sr. Mary Joseph, O.P. (Los Angeles) 

Empty Vessels 149 

Sr. Mary of the Precious Blood, O.P. (Buffalo) 

The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic (concluded) 151 

Lufkin Novitiate 

In Jesus' Name 167 

Sr. Elaine, O.P. (North Guilford) 

Saint Dominic: a Discourse of Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli - June, 1935 .... 153 
Translated by Mother Mary of the Trinity, O.P. (Menlo Park) 

Merciful Love 186 

A Nun of Summit 

Be What You Are, Contemplatives 187 

Sr. Mary Joseph, O.P. (Los Angeles) 

Mary and the Virtue of Trust 190 

Sr. Mary Emily, O.P. (Lufkin) 


Observances: Effective Means to Purity of Heart and Prayer 197 

Sr. Mary Magdalen, O.P. (Farmington Hills) 
Sr. Mary Thomas, O.P. (Buffalo) 
Sr. Mary of the Annunciation, O.P. (Lufkin) 
Sr. Mary of Christ, O.P. (Los Angeles) 

Lectio Divina and Discursive Meditation 201 

Sr. Maria Rose, O.P. (Summit) 

Sr. Mary Joseph, O.P. (Los Angeles) 

Dominican Identity, Observances, Enclosure, Study, Lectio 205 

Sr. Mary Agnes, O.P. Farmington Hills) 

Sr. Mary Elizabeth, O.P. (Farmington Hills) 


Community and Growth, Our Pilgrimage Together - Vanier 209 

Sr. Marie du Christ, O.P. (North Guilford) 

St. Mary Magdalene: Her Life and Times - Fill iette 210 

Sr. Mary John, O.P. (Farmington Hills) 

The Challenge of Jesus - Shea 211 

The Librarian (Summit) 

Christian Mysticism Today - Johnston 212 

Sr. Mary of Jesus, O.P. (Bronx) 



Oua tincene concern to tuppont one another in {ottering the Vomintcan con- 
templative li{e within and among the monasteries of the United Statu has bn.ou.gkt 
us a long way tince thote humble. beginningt whin the. teed wot planted at the. 
Springfield, Illinois meeting in 1975, producing the, Confenence of Nuns. Its 
mott necent blottom was the, Firtt General Attembly. The, fruits o{ this n.emank- 
able qn.owth aAe manu- that o{] the. tpoken won.d with its enriching peAi>onal con- 
tacts; that of, the. enflethed wor.d in oua Lived experience; and that o{ the 
written won.d, the one thoAed mott widely among alt o{\ the nuns. 

This istue o{ VOMINICAN MONASTIC SEARCH is a special one eommemoAating oua 
First GeneAal Attembly. It is an attempt to thane with all o{ the nuns the tp-in- 
itual and theological input at the Attembly to as to encouAage further ttudy, 
Ae{lection and tharing on the Aich contents opened out to us. Foa this purpote 
we oac printing all o{ the lectuAes given at the Attembly, along with any out- 
lines oa other information pAovided by the lectuAens . This undertaking, in itself, 
has been a demonstration of ftiAAt Aate coltaboAation among the lectuAens, the num> 
and even the' fasten of the 0n.den himtelf, by way of tAanscAibing, conAecting, ed- 
iting and appAoving the printed form {on. publication. Five genenous volunteers 
{\Aom among the mint did the oAiginal tAanscAipttons of the Fathers' lectuAes 
the tape n.ecoAdingf. SisteA Moalj Thomas [Lot Angeles), Sister. Mary Jordan [Lu{kin) , 
Sister. Maria Christine [Menlo Park), Sister. Mary Augustine {Lot Angeles) and 
Sister. Many o{ the SacAed Meant [West Springfield) . TheiA types cripts were tent 
on to the Aespective lectuAens who n.ead them and opened tuggettiont and tiien 
cntAusted the necestany editing to the boand. Hence, any ernons in the pntnted text 
one the n.etpontibtlity o{ the boaAd. Though this istue o{ VMS reaches you late at 
a n.etult, we feel that it hat been woAth the efforts of all involved. We want to 
expn.ett kene oua deep gratitude foA this demonttAotion of united action and tupport. 

In a ciAculaA letten. in Septemben we pAopoted tome questions {oa Open FoAum 
comments based on the lectuAes and taken from among thote used by the discuttion 
gnoupt at the Attembly. Funthen on in these pages we include a {ew nesponset 
which have been tent to us. In view of the fact that the questions weAe pnopoted 
to you to late, and be{on.e you had the advantage o{ ttudying the lectuAe matental 
in pAint, we look fonwoAd in next yeoA' t istue to much moAe extensive thaAing of 
insights into alt the ntch mateAial pAetented. The condensed fonm of that material 
thould pAovoke furtiier elaboration on each tubject and the many tuboAciinate tiiemu 
contained witliin -it. Tkete could be expAetted eitheA in tpontaneous eommentb foA 
Open foAum oa in longeA papers Aesutting fAom {urtheA ttudy, reflection and pnayeA. 
In any case, please do not wait until next {all to get youA thoughts on papen. Act 
at toon at the Spintt moves you, lest you {on.get\ 

This istue includes a tmalt backlog of papens which have come -in oven the 
pott yeoA along with a few Accent ones. Vou wilt also find tome poetny to bAowte 
thAough. and a {ew good book Aevlewt. Both o{ these aAe now a part o{ oua Aevised 
{onmat foA VMS and will no longeA appeaA in CONFERENCE COMMUNICATIONS. 

The Masten. of the Order has of{ened us tome challenging tuggettiont to consider, 
as pant o{ our, ef fonts towaAds unity and growth', the lectuAens have given us 
the fnutts o{ their knowledge concerning various aspects o{ oua Vominican li{e 
and histoAy. Now we have oua oppontuni-ty to teach and enrich one anotheA ac- 
coAding to the best tradition o{ the Orden.. It it {oa this purpote, out of this 
need and desire, that VMS came Into ejxtttence. May it continue to {otteA that 
unity of purpote and intensity of contemplative li{e to which we wene alt called 
as nuns o{ the OAden, of PAeachert to that "the Wo Ad o{ God [may] dwelt moAe com- 
pletely in the monastery" and among all o{ oua monasteries. 

Sister M. Catherine, O.P. 

bxj *thUr Atf&xj of lifl 

bath <tru friars <xnk <tioe nuns 

ttni t&wari -perfect love of Cfob ani ndoabor } 

dw true cliarttt/ 
\ohicri effectively skxos conccra for 

ani obtains *me salvation 
of 1 (^madur^/* 

basic Constitution op -4t?a Mum 



Most Rev. Damian Byrne, O.P. 
Master of the Order 

The office and the duties which I have been asked to assume terrify me 
at times, and I certainly do not want to go down in history as one who destroyed 
cloistered life in the Order. But having listened to you here I find that the 
subjects I wanted to speak to you about most of all were all included on your 
own agenda. 

The first thing I should discuss is what has happened to your Constitutions. 
After that, there are some ideas of my own to address, such as the apostolate of 
a Christian, or the missionary element of the Christian life and of the Order, 
since these go together, more or less. The next thing would concern the problem 
of those members of the Order who would like to try the eremitical life on the 
one hand, and the problem of those who want to be much freer to leave the enclosure 
on the other. Then, I would like to consider a little "hobby-horse" of my 
own in recent times, that is, the best method for conducting a visitation: could 
it be conducted by one of the nuns rather than by a priest? Obviously, if one of 
the nuns conducted it, it could not be a canonical visitation; but I would like to 
discuss the possibilities, nevertheless. Finally, I would like to say something 
about formation and the recruitment of vocations. I think this subject had 
priority when Father Vincent asked for this kind of gathering in the first place. 
I would like to enlarge on it a bit and have a look at how we might go about 
recruiting people, and perhaps give some insight from the experience of the men 
in the Order and what has been done there. Your situation is not exactly the 
same but examining ours may still be helpful. 

We will begin, then, with the Constitutions. Before Father 
Vincent left office everything was submitted to the Holy See and nothing has yet 
come back, though no particular item has been questioned. For a number of months 
Father Moya, the Procurator General and Canon Lawyer who deals with our affairs 
with the Holy See and the various Congregations, has been trying to learn what 
is causing the delay. The basic message he has received is that they are waiting 
for the norms with regard to cloister to be established by the Holy See. In the 
new canon law these norms are reserved to the Holy See. About a month ago, while 
I was away from Rome, a request came from the Sacred Congregation for Religious 
and Secular Institutes asking us to supply them with the historical origin and 
justification of the rights of the Master of the Order with regard to our con- 
templative nuns. Father Moya has learned that they feel that other Orders such 
as Poor Clares, Carmelites and others, will also be submitting their Constitutions, 
and since they have these same kinds of rights and privileges, the Holy See wants 
to see what the foundation for them is. Father Duval, in France, is doing the 
main study on it. Father Moya, however, went through his own papers and found 
one or two explicit documents in which these rights were given to us. This 
inquiry delays everything, and now that we are into the summer it is certain that 
nothing will be sent out from Rome before October. It is something that is really 
out of our hands now. Possibly having a Dominican as Prefect of the Congregation 
may make it easier to have our needs attended to. But certainly Cardinal Peronio 
was a very good friend and it was possible to deal personally through him. For 
example, he did a great deal to ease "certain difficulties concerning our foundation 
in Nicaragua, though tensions are rising there again. 

This incident concerning your Constitutions brings up the whole idea of 
what law is for us as Dominicans. It is always a means to an end, and it is 


always flexible. We do not try to put everyone in the same mold. Obviously, general 
guidelines for government are needed but we are always able to use dispensation. 
This is a point which is always difficult for us in the West. The Italians say 
that the Latin peoples have no difficulty with dispensation: they love to have 
things down on paper, but there is no problem about dispensation. We like to say: 
"What is the minimum? We must put that down and then observe it." This is a 
completely different approach to law, and it causes a lot of difficulties for us. 
What follows is by way of parenthesis but it is a good illustration. Father 
Wilfred Harrington gave us a course on Scripture in Trinidad one time, and during 
it he said that we Westerners have a great difficulty in really understanding 
Scripture because our basic question is: "Is this true?" For example, was Jonah 
in the belly of the whale for three days or was be not? But the Easterner never 
asks that question. Rather, he asks: "What does this mean?" That is a much more 
important question to ask, and it is somewhat the same with law. 

The best lesson I received on that subject was during the General Chapter in 
Naples. Our Constitutions tell us that when the Master of the Order is to be 
elected, the vocals must elect three scrutators in one ballot. This might create 
great confusion for one hundred thirty people. When that moment arrived, Father 
Aniceto said: "Now we have come to the election of the scrutators, and I suggest 
that we elect the Provincial of the senior Province of Spain, the Provincial of the 
junior Province of the Philippines, and the Provincial of the host Province of 
Naples" - and there was complete acceptance. But I remember saying to some of the 
brethren afterwards: "If we were to do that in our Province it would probably be 
reported to Rome that we had disobeyed the Constitutions!" Yet, it was a very 
sensible decision and it gave me an insight into how to look at law. Law is really 
common sense. We have it written down and when there is a dispute we follow the 
written letter of the law. So, in a case like the above election, if someone said: 
"You are trying to manipulate us; we want a vote according to our Constitutional 
rights", then we should follow the letter of the Constitutions. Of course we 
cannot say that everything is just a matter of common sense, but the difficulty 
that we have is evident. We tend to take law literally and we forget all about 
the law of dispensation and very often the law of common sense also. 

The next two things which I want to discuss are the apostolic call and the 
missionary call which each of us has received. My parenthesis about Dominican law 
was purposeful with regard to these also because we obviously have certain lines to 
follow. We have chosen a certain way of life with certain guidelines and certain 
ways in which we operate. An entire community cannot deviate from them, nor can 
an individual deviate from them normally. Here is an example of what I mean. 
When I was in Trinidad one of the nuns there had some ideas about charismatic 
prayer groups and about forming a charismatic group around the monastery. It was 
absolutely clear to me that this does not belong with a monastery. Eventually she 
left and has had immense success in forming her own charismatic community with a 
couple of people in the seminary preparing for the priesthood. Thousands, perhaps, 
attend prayer meetings and do all sorts of charitable works. It is marvelous 
to see her friendship with the sisters and theirs with her, and her attendance at 
daily Mass there. But it is clear that this is not something a monastery should 
take on, and if one is so convinced about it then she must leave in order to carry 
it out, just as Mother Teresa did when she saw what she wanted to do for the poor 
and dying of Calcutta. She had been teaching at a Loretto convent school and she 
simply had to leave her congregation and move on in order to do what she believed 
the Lord was calling her to do. But she didn't take everyone with herl 

Recently in Puerto Rico we came across a very interesting case. A teaching 
congregation which was semi -enclosed at that time wanted to reach out to the un- 
catechized in places outside of San Juan, and they chose one of their sisters, who 
is now eighty-four, to do it, much against her will. Then, while she was out doing 
the work she had been asked to do, with all of its demands, a rupture came with 


the parent congregation and she was blamed for something which she did not initiate 
but which was the consequence of her having been sent out to do a particular job. 
I think in some cases it is clear that if one has a new vision one must either leave 
to do what one wants, or circumstances themselves bring about a change. 

It has always been puzzling to me how contemplative communities satisfy their 
apostolic charism given at Baptism, and also their missionary one. We do not all 
have to go to the missions to be missionaries, and the talk this morning was yery 
illuminating for me. I found it very clear and I see the general trends. I must 
admit that when I saw the monastic sort of title for the conference I felt a little 
bit uneasy. We have eliminated the monastic elements in our Constitutions and I 
was thinking that perhaps the nuns should do the same. But this morning's talk 
(on the Basic Constitution of the Order and of the Nuns) quieted my fears. This 
is part of the tension that we will always have in our Order because our approach 
to law is flexible. Take, for example, the history of the Order in Latin America. 
There were tremendous tensions there between men like Betanzos, who insisted on 
the monastic character of our life, and Montesinos, who insisted on the apostolic 
character. We will always have that kind of healthy tension where one thing will 
be emphasized now and another at another time. 

It would seem to me, however, that there will always be the individual in the 
community who will have a particular gift, perhaps in the light of spiritual direc- 
tion, and that such a person should not have to suffer or be regarded as going 
against the general trend of the monastery. If the Lord calls a person along 
particular ways and it does not disturb the daily routine of the community then it 
should be accepted as the way the Lord is calling her. It seems to me that there 
will always be situations in your life beyond the normal routine to consider. 
For example, when sickness comes and a nun is obliged to go to the hospital, you 
are all made aware of the influence her presence has on fellow patients, visitors, 
doctors and others. Obviously, you would not all want to go to the hospital to- 
gether to influence everyone around there! But these are moments of grace. It is 
the same for someone with a particular gift or talent: it should not be regarded 
as completely out of order that it should be used in the context of the contemplative 
vocation. As I said last night, I am searching, searching yery much. I do not 
have all the answers, no one does; but I think our Dominican approach allows for 
some flexibility, and we must not hammer people with the book of Constitutions end- 
lessly. Hammer them with the Gospel, by all means, but not with the Constitutions. 
There will be exceptions to the rule, not exceptions like a fiery little Gospel 
community within a community, but occasions when an individual nun may have a 
particular apostolate. 

The missionary element of our life is something that I wrestled with for a 
long time. I am talking more from the point of view of the brethren now. One 
of the early things I tried to implement when I was superior in Trinidad was to 
insist on the brethren serving a particular parish, usually a parish there, for 
a limited time: three years, renewable for three years, and a further three years 
if necessary. At all times when they would go home on holidays, if they felt they 
wanted to stay home, it seemed quite all right to me. I did that because I felt 
that some of the brethren felt "trapped". Some men of great generosity who went 
to the missions out of obedience newer really settled down and always had a yearn- 
ing to go back home. They said that they were quite happy to stay where they were, 
but I felt that they would respond better if they were asked only to take another 
term and then return home to stay. Events proved the wisdom of this arrangement, 
and often it helped men to stay at the work rather than go back, as long as they 
didn't feel "trapped". But it gave rise in my mind - and it is something which 
has come through in recent Chapters - that we have always felt that the missionary 
committment was for life? I'm not sure that it is. I think it is a great thing 
when someone gives himself or herself to the missions for life, as they do in 


missionary congregations, but they now find that in old age they need to come back to 
their roots. It is not that exclusive a vocation. But with us, would it not be 
better to give oneself for a limited time to a particular project? In our recent 
Chapters it has been suggested that a person might go to set up a catechetical 
center or administer a parish in a particular diocese for five years, ten years, 
or whatever: something limited and renewable. But with regard to yourselves, I 
believe that all have this missionary vocation as Christians, and especially as 
Dominicans. I can also accept the fact that you need a particular number for your 
communities, and that the age level in various communities is rather high. So I 
could not very well ask you for ten nuns to begin a foundation; that would not be 
practical or realistic. It was very interesting talking to the prioresses in 
Mexico at the end of January. They were having the same kind of gathering as you 
are now, and it concerned the foundation in Nicaragua- They came up \/ery sensibly 
with the idea that one monastery should send a core group of seven or eight nuns and 
two or three other monasteries should send two or three nuns. So this is the 
situation, and very few monasteries would have the resources to found a new monastery 
by themselves. But it seems to me that it should be very possible to help out 
within your own country or abroad with, perhaps, two sisters for three years or 
five years, and this could be renewable, or they could return to their own communi- 
ties and others replace them. I think our missionary committment within our own 
country and abroad should enable us to be rather flexible in that way, particularly 
with the monasteries that are isolated such as Kenya, Trinidad or Norway. A lot 
of help is needed there. Isolation is probably one of the biggest problems. In 
the past when everything was so structured they might have succeeded alone but I 
do not think it can be done now. So I put before you the consideration of how 
you might fulfill the missionary element in your Baptismal Dominican character. 

It is interesting that in his preface to a little book on Sor Ana de Los 
Angeles, O.P., who is to be beatified in Arequipa, Peru on February second, Nons 
Javier Ariz, O.P. comments on how she was able to be a contemplative and a 

We have been getting a few requests from those who wish to try the eremitical 
life. The answer that Father deCouesnongle always gave to this was that it is not 
a part of our life; we are vowed to live in community and therefore it cannot really 
be a part of one of our monasteries. I think a good number of our monasteries give 
a day a month to each sister to live as a hermit, but that is a different thing. 
My own reply is based on an experience in another field. In recent years two of 
our priests, one ^ery young and the other relatively young, wanted to go off to 
dioceses to work for a while, but they did not want to leave the Order. My reaction 
was that if younger men want to go out to do diocesan work for a while, that is 
fine, but they must go for three years and then at the end of that time decide 
whether they want to come back to us or whether they want to stay where they are. 
We cannot have them coming and going every year for more permissions. I think 
that basically that would be my reply or reaction concerning the eremitical life: 
if a nun believes she has a vocation to be a hermit, that is something not en- 
visaged in our Constitutions. Some will object that we have had hermits in the 
Order in the past. But I think it is a fairer thing for the community and for the 
monastery if we tell those asking to be hermits that we will give them a decree 
of exclaustration for three years and then they must decide to return to their 
monastery or remain as hermits. Usually a year is not enough of an experiment 
and so they ask for another year and that can go on indefinitely. The interesting 
thing with the two men I mentioned is that they never went. Once they are helped 
to think a thing through they will decide that this is where they want to remain. 
So that is my thinking on hermits. 

The other thing that is coming up more frequently concerns permission to 
leave the enclosure. Now I have had a number of communications and letters, I 


think mostly from yourselves in the United States, protesting that the new Con- 
stitutions should not allow even the possibility of nuns leaving the enclosure 
in the the case of their brothers and sisters who are ill. I think the basic 
answer to that is: it is a possibility; it is not forced on anyone. On the one 
hand, we have nuns who want an extremely strict interpretation with no exceptions. 
Then, on the other hand, we get requests for a much more liberal interpretation. 
In some cases one can see where this might be necessary. Norway is an example 
of this. The community there whose archbishop was a Cistercian was given per- 
mission to go skiing in the winter. One's first reaction is: where is the 
enclosure? But one must keep in mind how long winter is there. To keep one's 
mental health it is probably necessary to allow this kind of thing, especially 
for Norwegians. So one can hardly say: "Here is the law and it is to be applied 
everywhere without exception." Recently I was talking to one of our Spanish 
brethren who has a sister, a Carmelite in Indonesia. He was telling me with 
great approval (I reacted with horror) that his sister and the others all wear 
the same woolen habit and woolen underwear that is used in Europe. That does not 
make sense to me. It is applying the law yery rigidly. How can these poor sisters 
pray unless they are fresh and clean? With regard to this, what I said in the 
beginning was said with a purpose: our law does allow for dispensation. 

I spoke with the prioress in Oslo on the phone recently. The problem now 
is that they have a new bishop who is a diocesan priest from Germany and he is 
really applying the law. So someone has gone there on visitation. It may very 
well be that a community like that will have to opt, within our tradition, for 
a different kind of cloister. Canon law prescribes the cloister as you know it 
and practice it, along with another lesser form of that same cloister. This 
latter form may be a better one for the Norwegians. If an exception has to be 
more general then one does what one can. I had a lot of experience with the nuns 
in Mexico where enclosure is sometimes observed in the breach. I have great ad- 
miration for them because they were all scattered during the time of the perse- 
cution, and some came back, naturally, with a yery liberal understanding of what 
the enclosure is. So one finds them out on Sundays selling biscuits in the big 
part at Chapul tepee. However, I really was scandalized recently over another 
place in Mexico where they built a new monastery which is certainly an architect's 
dream, but the nuns are out every week end collecting to pay for this. That is 
the other side of the story where there is a completely liberal interpretation; 
these nuns are out all the time. In one of the monasteries where they sell the 
biscuits they go out even during the week to buy sugar because one can buy it 
cheaper if one goes out to the supermarket to buy it oneself. This is a yery 
liberal interpretation. So perhaps, in some cases, if a monastery wants a more 
liberal law with regard to visiting home and the like, the more honest thing 
might be to opt for the second kind of enclosure. It seems to me that the ex- 
ceptions which are envisaged should be enough: visiting elderly and sick parents 
and brothers and sisters. There is always a law of dispensation in individual 
cases of hardship or whatever. We keep in mind that the law is there but there 
is always the possibility of dispensation from the bishop or an individual dis- 
pensation for a particular need, but that this cannot become a general rule. 

The next point I want to discuss concerns visitations. The only monastery 
in which I carried out a visitation was in Trinidad, and I did it there many 
times. One always feels very inadequate as a visitator for monasteries of nuns 
since one has not lived the life oneself, and also one is a man dealing with 
women. It always seemed to me that, just as in the monastic tradition the abbot 
of the founding monastery is the visitator of the daughter houses, so would not 
something similar be better in practice for monasteries of women like yours? 
Obviously it could not be a canonical visitation, but it might be one which would 
be much more helpful and have more value for the nuns. A prioress or some nun 
from another monastery might be invited to come and simply spend time, and then 


make recommendations to the prioress. Something like that happened in Trinidad 
recently with Mother Mary William, and it was very successful by all accounts. 
I think we have to be ready for this kind of change, not for the sake of change 
but for something that could be of real value. 

The question of formation and vocations will be a separate issue. Perhaps 
Father Gabriel would answer that question about the tractatus now, and then later 
I can answer any questions about anything I have said before I speak about 

Father Gabriel: In general the monasteries felt that the idea of the 
tractatus was not a very feasible one to be recommended in the Constitutions or 
in the Ordinations because of the nature of the enclosed life in a monastery of 
nuns. There are not very many options in terms of personnel, and it is very 
difficult the way the tractatus is conceived of and difficult to put it into 
effect. My experience is that we, as friars, tend to talk about the qualities 
that we want in a superior and then to discuss the positive ways in which various 
men could fill the job; but we are not dealing with just one house. Usually, we 
are not even discussing the men present, so the idea came out of a situation which 
was not like that of the nuns, and many monasteries felt that it was unrealistic 
and tension producing. However, I do not recall any remarks in our lengthy dis- 
cussion suggesting that the nuns should not talk about the election; not in the 
sense of canvassing, but in the sense of its not being necessarily a forbidden 
topic altogether. 

(Father Master resumes his talk): A comment has been made that there seems to 
be a growing desire in communities for more opportunities to live the eremitical 
life in the sense of hermit days. As I mentioned before, I see no difficulty about this 
once a month. There are a lot of communities observing that and it is a very good 
thing; but if one goes beyond that, where does community life come in? Community 
life is an element in our observance which I feel we must consider. It seems fair 
enough that the majority of monasteries make provision for hermit days and once 
one goes beyond that the consequences have to be lived out. 

One of the questions put to me concerned sisters who would like to go on 
directed retreats. I am not too sure that one should go out of the monastery 
for these since people can come in to give these retreats. I do think that within 
the monastery if someone wishes to spend their retreat completely in private that 
this should be allowed. I am told that the Fathers do not seem to be available 
as they were in the past. That brings a problem. 

Recently we met with the thirty Italian monasteries and there were about 
sixty nuns at the meeting. We asked them what they wanted from us. The first 
thing they wanted was for each of them to have a priest full time for formation. 
We answered that they are grouped into three federations and we could certainly 
think of giving a man full time to each federation, but that it was very unreal- 
istic to ask for one for each monastery. I want to discuss this problem now 
with respect to formation. The enclosure does not mean that you cannot have 
some aspects of formation in common. The Italian federations, as a result of 
that meeting, are in the process of getting a house in Rome for formation. The 
enclosure does not mean that nuns cannot go to other monasteries, as I see it, 
especially among yourselves. You may question whether novices trained in another 
monastery might lose the spirit of their own. That must be left to the formation 
team. The Italian nuns mentioned that when they have one or two novices in 
a community it is a great boost to the rest of the nuns. That is very well for 
the community, but who is more important, the novices or the community? The 
Italian monasteries have almost died out and there are only nine novices for the 
whole of Italy; that is a problem. How are nine novices formed within nine dif- 

ferent monasteries? The point mentioned is absolutely true: would that there were 
enough to form one community. But if there are not, then perhaps a new community 
must be formed. This is a problem which I would like to deal with more system- 

Another question asked concerns visitation by other nuns: how would I envisage 
that kind of visitation? I envision it as a sort of challenge to the community. 
It is not something which can be in the present legislation of the Church, there- 
fore it is not canonical. In one of the early days of Lent there is a lesson in 
the liturgy which tells us that no matter how advanced we may be, we can still 
become better; there is always another step to go. The very nature of a canonical 
visitation is that one hears all sorts of complaints and people wait for years 
sometimes to let things out. As a result one often gets a very negative reaction 
and is left wondering how one can leave a sense of hope and optimism in that place. 
A wery good friend of mine, the ex-provincial of England, told me that he never gave 
recommendations at the end of a visitation because when one does that the nuns are 
just waiting to see who was really heard and whose point of view had been captured 
in the recommendations. So you can see how visitations can be quite negative. I 
hardly ever gave any recommendations myself but simply spent a lot of time listening 
to people, often an hour and a half, and about one half or one fourth of this time 
was filled with complaints. But it became evident while listening that people were 
not as interested in whether one did anything about the complaints as in the fact 
that one had listened to each one as a person. No matter how much time one spends 
with each one in the parlor it never appears satisfactory to me. I never felt 
comfortable in that situation and always felt that someone who is actually living 
the life and understands it, not just one who is an outside listener for two or 
three days, could be much more useful in that kind of situation. It is not just 
a matter of criticizing the state of affairs, for we are all called to be better 
and none of us, no matter how advanced we are as individuals or communities, are 
beyond improvement. 

It is in that kind of context that I envision visitation. I am weighing my 
ideas out loud so as to be able to get them off the ground without having them 
immediately put down. I envision a nun visitator as one living and working with 
the community for a month or so and seeing its members in all sorts of situations. 
It should not be just a formal sitting down in the parlor for an hour to listen, 
but rather an informal type of contact that goes on over a period of time. I 
found out myself in Ireland that going to a house and spending five days without 
hurry was really worthwhile. There is nothing to show for it, and I have nothing 
written up. But that is not important; we have enough written things. I think 
we should be more affective than effective in our dealings with people. We have 
been very affective with regard to buildings, institutions, apostolates, Constitu- 
tions, and effective with regard to people. We must change that around and become 
a little more affective about people. It is not just a matter of allowing them to let 
off steam as much as to give them encouragement and a sense of optimism. As things 
are at present, when a visitation ends some sisters are about ready to break. 
Obviously that is not a healthy situation and it would seem to me that now that 
you are coming together in this way and getting to know each other, you should be 
able to invite a sister just to live with you for a month and to talk with you and 
make any suggestions she might have to offer at the end of the time. It need not 
be anything formal; just the interchange would be beneficial. 

Those who are able to attend a meeting like this usually find it very profit- 
able. It is a privilege to be chosen to attend such a gathering, as it is in our 
case to attend a Chapter. But a lot of nuns never get that opportunity, so it 
might be helpful to them if someone were to come for a month or two to talk 
things over with them and reassure them that the Order is surviving and the Church 
is still in existence. Serious trouble is a different thing altogether. I am only 


speaking about becoming better, more healthy, more sane. In that sense I would 
think it might be a good thing (I am just throwing this out to you in the hope 
that I can share something which has been on my mind and be listened to respect- 
fully) at a meeting like this, for example, if you drew up a schedule and stated 
that there would be interchange among the monasteries and that the sisters named 
would go to the monasteries named in the course of the next two years. I suggest 
something of that sort and I would be interested to see the results. I think 
they would be much more fruitful than a canonical visitation. If something was 
seriously wrong the sister might suggest to the prioress that she contact the 
bishop. But I do not believe there is that much wrong in most places; it is only 
that nuns reach a point where they are ready to explode and there is need for 
confidence. There was so much talk about problems at the Chapter in Naples that 
at one point I stood up and asked if we could not put in opportunities as well, 
both problems and opportunities. Problems and difficulties often bring their 
own opportunities for solution and for growth. I am certainly not imposing my 
idea in any way, now that I have the platform, but if you tried something like I 
have described, the results might well be emulated in other parts of the world as 
well, if they take note of what you are doing, even though it might have an 
opposite reaction. But we must all grow. 

Now I want to speak about formation, beginning with recruiting and what to 
do with those who apply to the monasteries. I am not an expert on formation. During 
my stay in Trinidad, when vocations came the first thing we did was send them 
to Ireland to be trained and then wait for them to come back. At the 1969 Chapter 
we took a big decision to form them ourselves. We failed miserably and probably 
blamed the young people; and that ended my experience in formation. When I went 
to Mexico the first thing the novice master said to me was: "We have no novices; 
young people have been coming in good numbers but none of them stay." He said 
that the basic reason was that they hadn't a sufficiently formed Christian life 
and knew very little Christian doctrine, and therefore they were coming into 
something for which they were not prepared from a Christian point of view. So, 
as is customary in Latin America, they studied these things for one week end a 
month for about six months. It was a very fruitful study and they decided to set 
up a pre-novitiate program where a Dominican priest would live with any inter- 
ested candidates. The candidates would go out to work and at night there would be 
classes for them, and gradually they would be introduced to community prayer and 
observance. That program has continued. It began as a period of six months and 
has now been extended to a year. Some aspects have changed, for example, the work 
aspect. It is not easy for all of them to get work so in most cases they do some 
further studies or learn a language. But the basic idea of living together in a 
Christian way, perfecting their knowledge of the faith and working at a certain 
amount of the apostolate has all been preserved. The interesting thing is that 
they have come from a position ten years ago or less, where they probably had 
about six students scattered all over the world - one in California, three in 
Italy and two in Spain - to fifty students in all the various stages of formation. 

When I went home to Ireland in 1977 and met the novice master for the first 
time, his greeting was exactly the same greeting that I had received in Mexico. 
I was amazed because one can understand the lack of Christian doctrine and form- 
ation in Mexico where there are no Catholic schools, or very few where there are 
religious. But in Ireland where there is the Catholic system of education it was 
a surprise. So, though it was not as extensive, we did the same kind of study as 
had been done in Mexico, and the same kind of decision was made in Ireland: to 
begin a pre-novitiate program. The results have not been spectacular by way of 
numbers entering the novitiate, but they have been so by way of stability in the 
novitiate. In fact, of all those who have gone through the program only one left 
from the novitiate and one from the studentate, and that was only within the past 
few months. 


I would like to explain the Irish process because of the lessons it has taught 
me. We begin with an interview conducted by a priest, Father Louis Marteau. He 
is a psychotherapist, Director of the Dympna Center in London, and author of Words 
of Counsel , of a series of publications in professional psychiatric books and 
journals, and of Coming Together: A_ Psychological Reflection on Religious Life . 
Chapter eight of the latter book, concerning the process of assessment, is based 
on our Irish experience with the pre-novitiate program. The interview is not a 
test but a way of showing these young people where their strengths and their 
weaknesses lie. I know little about the interview, but I can give you some in- 
sights into it. It is not a matter of putting people into categories but rather of 
giving them an idea of the kind of persons they are with their particular strengths 
and weaknesses. Each one is told that, while the situation is as it is, he or she 
can develop the strengths and conquer the weaknesses. After this, a married woman 
joins the priest as part of his team. (Have you ever read the letters from Ferdinand 
Valentine to Theophilla? This woman happens to be Theophilla. Father Valentine 
was a great friend of her family when she was young.) The two of them do separate 
interviews and they do an interview together. In this way they help these young 
people to understand themselves and to work towards a productive future. While we 
hope they may go on to the novitiate, the fact that a number of them decide on 
marriage is still a yery positive thing. If this decision can be made before they 
try the novitiate there is less instability within the novitiate. It is interesting 
that the John of God Sisters opted for the same type of program, though I think 
there is a difference in the situation of active sisters. 

An approach such as that described, getting a group of girls to live a Christian 
life in a supervised and serious way for a year, might bring a lot of vocations. 
There is certainly a difficulty when a boy or girl of about eighteen years of age 
goes into a community where the next in age might be twenty years older. This is 
asking a great deal of them. Father Marteau was recently called out to England 
to a convent of nuns where there were two novices. The two of them were not getting 
on at all, and the nuns were horrified. He said such a situation is quite normal. 
We feel that we are all the same and that we must get on equally well with each 
other. This is just not possible and a lot of damage may be done in trying to 
meet this ideal. If we encourage people who are thinking about a religious voca- 
tion to live this kind of intense Christian life for a year as a preparation or 
trial, it might be very beneficial. 

I was yery interested that St. Joseph's Province has begun a pre-novitiate 
program, and even more interested when I spoke with Father Fitzhenry, the novice 
master, who explained the need of it. In Ireland we feel the need of it more for 
those just leaving school, whereas he felt the need for those aged twenty-one or 
twenty- two, who need this kind of basic Christian experience before they go on to 
religious life.. However they may come, if they come in very small numbers, 
two perhaps at a time, and there are no other companions, one is asking a great 
deal of them; maybe too much. It is great to have one or two young people in the 
community for the community's sake, but what about the young people and their 
spiritual and psychological growth? I have questions concerning all of this but 
no real answers. The situation is even more difficult for cloistered nuns. When 
I was in Drogheda recently I mentioned it there. I asked them if, now that the 
John of God Sisters have had their pre-novitiate program in operation for the 
past year, they might allow a young person who was interested in their life to 
join these sisters for that basic Christian experience. They might lose her, or 
they might gain others as well. But a lot of good would be done for the person 
in question in helping her to discern her vocation. In small communities where 
are you going to get good formation personnel? Could a few monasteries do it 
together or perhaps have six months novitiate in one monastery and six months in 
another? That is surely not wery canonical but we must consider the needs of 
the young people. Are we thinking of ourselves or of them and of the future? 


These are the kinds of questions I would have. In fact, at the moment we are 
preparing a letter for the Order about the importance of the first years of the 
young man's life as a priest. Do we look upon him as a replacement for ourselves, 
or as a person with his own talents and gifts who may respond to other needs in the 
Church, and who may have particular needs himself? These are the questions of 
today. At the meeting in Providence someone was tellinq about a group of bishops 
who were together » reminiscing about the "old days", and they were speaking 
with great admiration of some man who had been a bishop for some thirty years. 
One of the bishops present objected that when this man was a bishop he could settle 
all his problems with a three cent stamp! Such things are true; it was a different 
age. It is not the same now, and we have to be aware of the needs of a small group 
of young people and also the needs of formation. It is a very difficult thing for 
one monastery to manage alone. So it was interesting that even though the Italian 
nuns were hesitant at the meeting which was held only a week after Easter, they 
have already settled on a house for formation in Rome. One sister had given the 
objection that perhaps taking a novice from her own monastery would create a dif- 
ficulty for her when she would return there. I think the Roman Federation has 
foreseen this difficulty and has decided that the formation house will be separ- 
ate from all existing monasteries. It will be a separate house where a core 
group of formators can go and this house will be used for formation of novices 
for a time, and then later for formation of the formators. So if you had the 
resources it could be a very enriching experience. The gathering together of 
novices and others in formation could be a help to them and would establish 
friendships among all in various monasteries. Obviously, I have nothing worked 
out; I just want to express my "inquietudes" as we would say in Spanish. Also, 
I would like you all to know about the kind of thinking among the brethren at 
the present time. 

I met a founder of a congregation for men. It is a small congregation but 
their whole concern is vocations among all. Father Mark Said, O.P., our canon 
lawyer at the Angel i cum, is helping these men with their Constitutions. 

To sum up: I believe that the kind of thing I have been talking about would 
help young people to discern their vocations, that they could be helped by a 
pre-novitiate program in some form. You might even bring them to the monastery 
for a week end now and then with a group, just as a trial. It would be good for 
you to keep this kind of thing in mind, even as a remote possibility. One never 
knows where or how an opening might come for it later on. 

In nomine Domini. Thank you. 



Gabriel O'Donnell, O.P, 

Most of you probably know that I have just come back from what is called 
a "study tour" which was organized by PARABLE. We traveled through "St. Dominic's 
country" with 36 Dominican sisters and priests from fourteen or fifteen Congrega- 
tions and two of our Provinces. I mention this because I was invited to be one of 
the three teachers on this study tour. Our job was to animate, give lectures, lead 
the program and speak the various languages necessary. 

I bring this up at the beginning of my formal presentation 
because my experience on that study tour changed my presentation a good bit. I 
had to change what I had planned and written before I left and that for two reasons. 
First, because as I prepared my lectures along the way I was forced to read the sources 
once more. I had to go back and reread again many of the documents and the lit- 
erature that we use as the source of our information about the beginning of the Or- 
der and the beginning of the nuns of the Order. Secondly, because in the process of 
this study tour I met again our nuns from different countries: the Sisters in Spain, 
in France and in Italy. I think meeting them stirred up again my conviction and en- 
thusiasm for the truth about Dominican cloistered life and that there is a certain 
urgency about speaking to the question of the identity of Dominican cloistered re- 
ligious, Dominican monastic people. It is because of my experience of the 
singleness of our vocation, whether we are friars, nuns, sisters, or 
brothers of the Order that I was filled with the conviction that it was impor- 
tant for us to talk about this singleness of our Dominican life even though 
it is lived out in radically different ways. 

We have come together here to speak about the Book 
of the Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers. We are going to be con- 
cerned about the structures set out in this book, the fundamental principles and 
reasons which led to the particular texts set down there. Most of all, we 
are hungry to understand the vision of holiness, transformation, I suppose we would 
say in monastic terms, "conversion", which lay as the foundation and substructure 
of the Book of Constitutions and Ordinations. We all realize 
that the laws of the Order are the simple external norms which guide us on our way 
to becoming, as Paul tells us, "images of Christ and Him crucified, died, and bur- 
ied.. .If you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and if you confess with your 
lips that God raised Him from the dead then you will be saved." 

It is for this reason that I think the Conference Council, from the first 
moment of its planning, was concerned to study the texts of the Constitution in 
light of its most recent proposed revisions and to study them in such a way as to 
lead to a true interiorization of the principles involved. Without such interior- 
ization no form of the religious life, let alone that which the new Code of Canon 
Law describes as "that totally dedicated to contemplation" can have any meaning 
whatsoever . 

As the first formal presentation of the Assembly, I think it falls to me 
to make a few background comments. While my topic is really the consideration of 
the Basic Constitution of the Order, and that as a kind of pre-note to the 
Basic Constitution of the Nuns , a few general remarks to situate all of our 
thinking and discussion during these few days. I 


The first general observation I would like to make is historical. We know 
that while Bishop Diego and Dominic together conceived the establishment of a monas- 
tic foundation for women, some of whom were recent converts from Catharism, it 
was Dominic alone (the only name mentioned in the original charter of Prouille), who 
actually undertook the project with great determination and zeal, providing both for 
the material security of the nuns as well as their spiritual formation. Further 
for Dominic, this first foundation was never understood apart from the pro- 
ject of the holy preaching. From the beginning the Sisters of Prouille were paral- 
leled by a community of brothers who would at one and the same time help and sup- 
port the sisters and depend upon them. This detail of history is one which we 
should meditate upon if we are to understand the true nature of the Dominican 
vocation in what is sometimes called the First and Second Orders. 

My second observation is based upon history but leads us into a more the- 
ological consideration. As we Dominicans continue to plumb the sources of our own 
tradition, new horizons open up . We are more aware now, than for some time previous- 
ly, that our nuns had access to the rich tradition of the monastic life through 
the original formation which they received from St. Dominic himself, steeped in 
the tradition of monastic spirituality, especially as it was contained in the 
teachings of Cassian and the Desert Fathers, Jordan tells us in his account of the 
beginnings of the Order that St., Dominic studied and interiorized the teaching of 
these great monastic leaders. 

In the years from 1207 to 1212 it was surely this tradition which St. Dom- 
inic communicated to the first Sisters of St. Mary at Prouille. And in his daily 
instruction to the sisters at San Sisto in Rome what other principles than those of 
the interior life which he learned as a Canon at Osma could he have given to the 
first community there? We know further that Dominic was often a guest at Cister- 
cian Monasteries; that he worked closely with the Cistercian legates in Languedoc , 
and that it was Fulk, Bishop of Toulouse (himself once a Cistercian monk), who gave 
the property to Dominic for the Sisters at Prouille. Vicaire says: "At 
Caleruega he had discovered the fire of the Gospel. At Palencia he discovered its 
light. At Osma he experienced its inward tenderness." It is this radical interior 
attachment to Christ and Christ's mission of salvation that Dominic used as the 
foundation of the formation of the sisters, both at Prouille and at Rome. 

The nuns of our Monasteries throughout the world are now in the very mo- 
ment of rediscovering their membership in this great monastic tradition. Not only 
by instruction from Cassian, but through formation in the Cistercian usages (for 
reasons as yet unclear) our nuns were ushered into an ancient and revered tradi- 
tion,, But there is more. St. Dominic, so familiar with the tradition of monastic 
thought and spirit, was not himself, nor did he ever choose to be, a monk. He was a 
canon, a priest, a preacher. These realities were part of the vision which shaped 
his notion of the partnership between the enclosed nuns and the preaching brothers 
of Prouille, and later the sisters of Rome and Madrid. 

To come to a fuller understanding of what it means to be a Dominican nun 
requires reflection on the monastic tradition. This is crucial, but not sufficient. 
The Order of Preachers is known to have been founded from the beginning for preach- 
ing and the salvation of souls. The nuns of the Order, the Sisters Preacheresses , 
can only be specifically Dominican in relationship to that goal and end. The 
priestly reality of the baptized, the sacerdotal work of Dominic and the early 
brothers of the Order, the canonical formation of our father and founder Dominic, 
all of these aspects must be added to our nuns' rediscovery of membership in the 
great monastic Order. 


Such reflection will bring us face to face with a new appreciation of the 
Eucharistic orientation of St. Dominic which, added to the celebration of the hours 
of the Divine Office, is surely a development not found in the early monastic tradi- 
tion nor reflected in monastic literature such as Cassian and the Fathers of 
the Desert. This sacramental consciousness and this association of a group of nuns 
with a movement, at once evangelical and clerical, renders certain contours to the 
monastic tradition which have become typically Dominican. This fuller line of 
study, research and reflection is important if we are to discover the specifically 
Dominican characteristic of our nuns. 

We are all well familiar with Simon Tugwell's book The Way of the Preacher , 
which seems to imply that it is not possible to have a Dominican way of life totally 
dedicated to contemplation. More recently, Fr. Guy Bidwell, in his book on St. Dom- 
inic and the Grace of the Word of God (not yet translated into English) has sup- 
ported the more traditional position. For him, the unique charism of the Order is 
only realized, as it was from the beginning at Prouille, Rome, Madrid and Bologna, 
through a common sharing of the Word of God and a mutual interdependence in the act 
of hearing and obeying that word. He says the apostolic work of the Preacheresses 
is that of silent hearing and keeping of that word which the Brothers are compelled 
to publicly proclaim. Fr. Bidwell adds several other influences on St. Dominic 
which must be taken into account and studied more seriously if we are to appreciate 
the relationship between the brothers and sisters of the Order which is the source 
of the development of Dominican monastic life: the Rule of Augustine as analyzed 
more completely in the context of Augustine's theology and his own proper strain of 
monastic life; the influence and spirit of the Rule of the Hermits and Monks of 
Grandmont; finally the continued analysis of what Simon Tugwell has begun in the 
later pages of his volume Early Dominicans , i.e., a comparative study of the primi- 
tive Constitutions of the Order with the usages of Premontre. All of this goes to say 
that there is much work to be done. It is not enough to go back to some of 
the earlier sources but one must continue always to study and reflect in order to learn 

The immediate business at hand this morning is for me to talk about the 
Basic Constitution of the Order and then Sister Mary of God is going to talk 
about the Basic Constitution of the Nuns. I think we were all for a long 
time puzzled by this double Basic Constitution: a Basic Constitution for the friars 
and a Basic Constitution for the nuns. It seemed more sensible to rewrite both 
texts, massing them into one, including all the elements of the nuns' life and pro- 
ducing a text at once monastic and applicable to the real situation. The answer to 
this question is of great importance for our consideration during these days, 

The Second Vatican Council has declared again to all religious that it is 
the following of Christ in the book of the Gospels which is the supreme law of 
every form of religious life. In addition to this universal rule, St. Dominic, like 
every founder or foundress of a religious institute, chose an existing rule, a "regula", 
specific to his or her particular religious group. This rule, universal and unchang- 
ing within the specific community, is further particularized by yet another form of 
regulation or legislation: the usages, or customs, or constitutions, or directory 
of the religious group. These ordinarily embody the specific application of the 
principles contained in the Gospels and the rule of the Order or Institute, Thus we 
have a gradation, a development in legislation, a very definite progression, 

The unchanging call to conversion and holiness, embodied in the words and 
deeds of Christ our Saviour, are particularized according to the principles and ori- 
entation of an individual religious group. These principles are yet further speci- 
fied in more practical and concrete ways in the book of Constitutions or the direc- 
tory, or customs of a religious institute. Therefore, the understanding and inter- 


pretation of these books of constitutions or customs can only be effective and real- 
istic when understood in the light of their dependence upon what is prior and more 
important: the principles of the Gospel and the basic principles of the rule. It 
is this which gives us our fundamental orientation in our particular Order. 

This idea of a progression among the various elements of the legislation 
of our Order, hoth friars and nuns, was in the minds of the framers of the Basic 
Constitution of the Order and later the framers of the Basic Constitution 
of the Nuns. It is very important because when the framers of these texts 
had this idea in mind they understood that the Basic Constitution would be 
a transition, as it were, from the Rule to the Book of the Constitutions. 
The relationship between the Basic Constitution of the Order and that of the 
Nuns was that the Basic Constitution of the Order would serve as a pre-note, 
a prologue, to that of the nuns which would then be the transition into the 
Book of the Constitutions of the Nuns. Thus, the Basic Constitution of the 
Order, which contains a description of the mission of the Order as well as 
the way of life which springs from it, was seen as a necessary prologue 
to that of the nuns, a prior statement of the nature and basic organization 
of the Order of Preachers which would provide a context for the further 
legislation of the nuns and would provide a definite continuity with the 
life of the entire Order in its various branches. 

This is the point of the most recent proposed change of #201 of the Book 
of the Constitutions. The text read originally: "In the light of the Gospel and 
according to the mind of the Rule of Augustine the Monasteries are governed by"... 
but the proposed change reads: "In the light of the Gospel and according to the 
mind of the Rule of Augustine and the Basic Constitution of the Order, the Mona- 
steries are governed by"... You can see here the idea of a certain progression or 
movement, a transition from one set of texts to another; and texts which are to 
embody values and principles have been already embodied in this proposed revision 
of #201. For all these reasons, then, the framers of the Basic Constitution of 
the Nuns did not feel compelled to repeat the same ideas and themes. Indeed, they 
avoided that in formulating the Basic Constitution of the Nuns for the same reasons, 
Seeing the Basic Constitution of the Order as a prior statement to that of the 
nuns, it seemed of some importance to consider it as part of our reflections on 
the Constitutions of the Nuns. 

The Basic Constitution of the Order comprises nine paragraphs of varying 
lengths, but it would have to be described in the end as brief and to the point. 
Father Vicaire has already written a very complete commentary on the text which 
has been published in English in Dominican Ashram . 

The first four paragraphs of the Basic Constitution of the Order are con- 
cerned in a general way with the principles of religious life in the context of the 
purpose and nature of the Order of Preachers - that purpose being preaching and the 
salvation of souls and the form of life being the apostolic life as conceived by St. 
Dominic. The last five paragraphs deal more directly with the basic structure of 
the Order and its governmental principles springing from St. Dominic's evangelical 
inspiration. One can say that the notion or the image of Christ, crucified and sav- 
ing, permeates the text of the Basic Constitution. There is in each paragraph an 
urgency to make known the message of salvation to all men and women and this is what 
gives the individual paragraphs their flavor. 


There are two basic ideas on which the Basic Constitution is founded. Fr . 
Vicaire in his commentary calls them missio and communio : the call to union, to 
oneness, to unity, exemplified in the Gospel in the union between Christ and the Fa- 
ther and then the sending forth of the Son from the heart of the Father to save the 
world through sharing that life of communion, unity, oneness. Thus, the texts of 
the Acts of the Apostles, Chapters 2, 4 and 6, become very crucial in understanding 
the structure and theological message of the Basic Constitution. 

There are, secondly, two other ideas that are very important for us to re- 
call when we think of the Basic Constitution as a prelude or a pre-note to the 
that of the nuns. First there is a tremendous ecclesial awareness: Domini- 
cans are alive to the reality of the Church, to the needs of the Church, and ready 
to give themselves for that need and that reality. Second, there is consecration: this 
way of understanding "communio" is based upon the baptismal experience of insertion 
into the death and resurrection of Christ which is called consecration in the Basic 

Without a sense of some of these background ideas, we may perhaps pass 
over the nuances of the text and that which gives us a clue as to how Dominican 
contemplative or monastic life is uniquely Dominican. This is particularly true in 
paragraphs one and two where the words of Honorius III are used to describe the 
purpose of the Order. The texts of the primitive Constitution are revived and some 
of the central themes of the monastic tradition of spirituality are introduced for 
the first time. I would like to review each paragraph briefly and comment upon 
what is there and the evidence that in the Basic Constitution of the Order there is a 
certain continuity with the tradition of spirituality prior to the founding of the 

In the first paragraph we have the words of Honorius III describing 
the reasons for the foundation of the Order. He described Dominican life as that 
which is typified by poverty and regular life. The use of poverty, so important for 
St. Dominic and the mendicant tradition, was reminiscent of poverty of spirit in the 
monastic tradition which immediately brings to mind for all those who know the lit- 
erature of early monasticism, humility and purity of heart. Regular life, life 
lived according to a "regula", is a life of discipline, a life of asceticism, im- 
plying the struggle against vice and the acquisition of virtue. These are well 
placed words which bring into our tradition a whole body of literature and theology 
which is given to us through St. Dominic. 

In paragraph two, the revival of the words of the primitive Constitution 
speak of Dominican life as the following of Christ our Saviour, and later, at the 
end of the paragraph, that Dominicans speak "cum Deo aut de Deo" (with God, or about 
God with one's neighbor). We do not have to rehearse here the long tradition of the 
monk or the nun seen as the perfect imitator of Christ, the successor to the martyrs 
and the imitators of the apostolic community at Jerusalem. To speak of "cum Deo aut 
de Deo" is a text taken directly from the monastic tradition, borrowed to express a 
life of unceasing prayer and communion with God which makes unity with others 
a possibility and a reality. "Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum habitare fratres in 
unum." These ideas found in paragraphs one and two of the Basic Constitution are 
allusions to a tradition which pre-dates the Order of Preachers and ushers into its 
life a great richness and a continuity. 

In paragraph three the Basic Constitution speaks about religious profes- 
sion as consecration and a consecration which brings about the perfection of love. 
It is Cassian, whom Dominic daily read, who tells us that the living of the monastic 


life in purity of heart leads to the perfection of love. It is the perfection of 
love which matters above all else. Purity of heart, obedience, humility, patience 
and discretion are all ordered to bring us to the fullness of love. Thus, the bap- 
tismal theme of consecration describes the effects of the monastic profession. In 
paragraph three profession is not only the consecration which gives us the gift of 
membership in the Order, but it renders us totally consecrated to God and dedicated 
in a new way to the Church. While this reflects the time in which the Order is 
founded and the divisions and disorders in the Church, it certainly suggests a new 
awareness in the monastic life of the ecclesial reality which calls all the baptized, 
whether in the 'world' or out of the 'world', to offer their lives in union with the 
mission of Christ, which is to save the world. Thus, the apostolic themes of con- 
secration and mission become part of religious profession. Finally, in paragraph 
three, we have the theme of the Word of God. That word, that theme, implies not 
only Lectio Divin a , but in the context of this new Order, study, the celebration of 
the hours and the Eucharist which are given new apostolic meaning. 

In paragraph four we have the classical description of the apostolic life 
as it was conceived by St. Dominic. While we are very good at reeling off the es- 
sential elements of the Order, it is perhaps not so much those elements that I would 
like to dwell upon as the words which are used to describe the quality of those re- 
alities or observances. First, unity in the common life; secondly, fe rvor in prayer 
or, as the British translation has it, zeal in prayer - a very significant monastic 
word; third, ass iduou sne ss in study and, finally, p ersevera nce in regular observ- 
ance. It is not so much the elements themselves which I would call to your attention 
the words which describe the quality of those observances, which are borrowed di- 
rectly from the monastic tradition. P erseverance in observance, or in the "regula", 
suggests that singleness of purpose which monks and nuns have talked about 
from the beginning: the single eye, purity of heart, fixedness on the one thing 
that is necessary. Only out of this, according to this number, can true apostolic 
fruitfulness come. These are the classical themes of the monastic life, but here 
they are connected with a new emphasis, preaching. 

Paragraph four says that all of these not only increase the glory of God 
and bring about our own growth in holiness, but they provide directly for the salva- 
tion of souls, prepare for preaching, give it its orientation and indeed, offer its 
fruitfulness. Thus, the statement of all of the classical themes of the monastic 
life begins to have a new orientation. 

In paragraph five we read of the clerical nature of the Order, its pro- 
phetic function, which is to preach everywhere by word and example, a theme not un- 
known in the monastic literature. Furthermore, paragraph five speaks of faith which 
is given a new vigor and a new penetration. Finally, the Body of Christ is built up, 
strengthened and renewed through living the life of communio and missio . 

It is in paragraph six that I would like to underscore 
something that we have not dwelt upon enough, for the text speaks about the 
structure of the Order coming from both missio and communio . In this number we 
find that the cooperator brother, though not a cleric, nor ordained a priest, neverthe 
shares fully in the mission of the Order; first, because of the priesthood of all 
of the baptized, but secondly, to quote directly: "moreover the total commission of 
the preacher to the proclamation of the Gospel by word and work is fulfilled in the 
fact that by solemn profession he is entirely and perpetually identified with the 
life and mission of Christ". It is not that Dominican identity comes from our being 
together, but that our Dominican identity comes from our being together in Christ, 
in His mission, in His communion with the Father. 


Thus, the universality and unity of the Order, which are the very elements 
in the monastic tradition of stability, is symbolized in our Order by profession to 
the Master of the Order, a profession which requires, according to paragraph six, 
maturity and responsibility for one's own life. Thus the Order is able to function 
according to the principle of dispensation and, as we read in paragraph seven, the 
principle that everyone must participate in the government of the Order, We are not 
only an Order, but we are an Order of communities and everyone is called to share in 
this process of government through Chapter, Council and the development of personal 
responsibility and maturity. 

Those are just some of the general ideas to be found in the 
Basic Constitution which provide a kind of setting and a pre-note for the Basic Con- 
stitution of the nuns. Reading the Basic Constitution of both the Order and the Nuns, 
one can only understand Dominican monastic life as having a new awareness of the Church, 
both universal and local; as having a new hunger for the salvation of all men and women; 
as having a renewed desire to search for union with God in love, so that the communion 
of all persons with God may become a reality. This is expressed most perfectly in the 
unity, the communion, of the monastic community. 

Perhaps you are familiar with Fr. Andre Louf's little book on prayer, 
Teach Us to Pray . In his book he tells how at Baptism every Christian is given cer- 
tain gifts, certain charisms, certain graces. In living the Christian life it is 
only gradually that these different gifts are exercised or developed, or brought 
forth through the inspiration and strength of the Holy Spirit. He speaks of prayer 
as one of these gifts of Baptism. It is perhaps an analogy which we can use in 
thinking about the Dominican Order and the relationship which exists between the 
friars and the nuns. We are given different gifts to express the same reality, It 
is one vocation but expressed in different gifts, in different ways. It is the 
unity of the monastic community, as an image of the unity of the Triune Godhead hid- 
den in the heart of the Church and the Order, which bears fruit, fruit which is un- 
known and unmeasurable . Nuns of the Order of Preachers are associated with 
the work of preaching for the salvation of souls, but in a way which can never be 
plotted on a graph nor numerically counted. It is the communio and the missio 
of Christ the Saviour which is the heart of every Dominican's vocation, whether 
lived out through preaching in the streets or hidden in the heart of the monastery. 
As the Second Vatican Council points out, it is really to be hidden in the heart of 
the Church itself. 




North Guilford 

Since the theme of the Assembly is Internalizing our Constitutions with a focus on 
Dominican Monastic Identity, I made an attempt to do this by simply dwelling with the 
words of the Basic Constitution of the Nuns and searching for a deeper understanding 
of them. During this hour of our morning session I will present a translation of the 
text of our Basic Constitution and a brief commentary on it. I would also like to 
give you some of the source material I used with the hope you will be able to pursue 
a like course. This has been a very enriching experience for me and I trust you will 
share my enthusiasm for the text. 

In the report Mother Mary of the Trinity and Father O'Donnell gave us on the work of 
the Constitutions Commission we were informed that it was suggested by some English- 
speaking monasteries that more of the monastic elements be included in the Basic Con- 
stitution. The response was that these elements were already there. This led me to 
study carefully the Latin text; and the riches it contained began to unfold. I was 
also helped by a translation of the French text and the Spanish, as well as by the 
British translation. The result of all this is the translation you have as an aid 
in following this brief commentary. I included in this translation the newly pro- 
posed revisions, which were not numerous, but important. 

I was able to consult Father Mark Sheridan, O.S.B., last June. We went over the text 
line by line to pinpoint the elements of the monastic tradition in it. Father Sheri- 
dan would assure us that the essentials of the tradition are all here. The concern 
for the salvation of others which is expressed in the second paragraph is the only 
thing Father noted as not being dominant in the monastic tradition as a whole. 

Father Gabriel and I talked about such a concern for the salvation of others as a 
Dominican element. We also noted the emphasis on community in the Rule of St. Augus- 
tine, and the importance of Dominican governmental structures in our lives as nuns 

of the Order. 

The first paragraph gives something of the history of our origin in St. Dominic and 
our identity as monastic women, that is, as nuns ( mon iales ) . The women gathered 
together oy St. Dominic in what was to become the monastery at Prouille are identi- 
fied by the expression sol i Deo vacantes , "free for God alone". Vacare Deo , to be 
free for God, had become a classic expression in the monastic tradition for those 
who were emptied (vacant) of all else and free for God -- for those devoted to God 
alone, totally at God's disposal. The literal French translates it, "unoccupied 
except with God." So within the Order of Preachers there is a branch that resporids 
to Christ's call to follow him by withdrawing into solitude to worship the Father. 
To continue in the words of Venite Seorsum , this is "a very particular way of living 
and expressing the paschal mystery of Christ, which is death ordained toward 
resurrect ion . " 

Such are the women St. Dominic associated with his "Holy Preaching", by their prayer 
and penance -- which in one sense is to say by their whole monastic life. The 
expression "prayer and penance" can be traced back to the earliest attempts to 
develop a theory about the Christian spiritual life. In the third century Origin 


made the distinction between the 'active' and contemplative life, that is, between 
the ascetic combat through which vices are conquered and virtues acquired, and the 
goal of this activity which is union with God through prayer. Every Christian is 
called to "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mk. 1:15); to a conversion, metanoia , 
that will free the heart for God and the kingdom. The monastic life of unceasing 
prayer and of asceticism is one response to this universal call. Within this context, 
'acts of penance,' satisfaction for sin, participation in the sufferings of Christ, 
are all for the sake of sharing in the fullness of his risen life, of accepting his 
gift of prayer. St. Dominic's own deep compunction of heart led him to embrace 
practices of penance, not only for his own sins, but for the sins of others as well. 
He exhorted the brethren, "If you cannot weep for your own sins, because you have 
none, still there are many sinners to be directed towards mercy and love. . . ." 
(2nd Way of Prayer) We will return later to St. Dominic's characteristic emphasis 
in this regard. 

It is interesting to note with what frequency the language of this 'ascetic combat' 
to overcome vices and gain virtues occurs in the early letters from the friars to the 
Dominican nuns. St. Dominic himself exhorts the nuns at Madrid to "make progress 
every day," "to fight the good fight against our ancient foe" and writes of "engaging 
in the contest." In a letter to the prioress at Milan, St. Peter Martyr mentioned 
her "daily progress from strength to strength" and referred to the "prize of your 
monastic struggle." Jordan of Saxony wrote: "Apply yourselves . . . not so much to 
bodily penances, in which the measure of wisdom and prudence can easily be exceeded, 
as to the life of virtue." In our own day Father Vicaire mentioned the special role 
in his ministry which St. Dominic gave to the first foundation of nuns "by their 
prayer and their example of a pure and generous life." 

To go back to the text, history affirms that St. Dominic gave his nuns a rule of life 
and, we could say, history speaks volumes about his fatherly care for them. We know 
also that our spiritual link with the brethren, as part of the same Order, is rein- 
forced by a legal bond. We could note that the original meaning of the word "Order" 
(Ordo) was 'way of life.' And this leads us into the second paragraph. 

The Latin word conversat io is normally translated 'way of life' and was often used in 

Christian literature to mean 'the ascetic life' or 'the monastic life'. For example, 

it is used ten times in this sense in the Rule of St. Benedict. It has been retained 
here in our Basic Constitution with its monastic overtones. 

In the Basic Constitution of the Order we find the way of life designated as an 
apostolic life. However, a study of the term 'apostolic life' ( v i ta Apostol ica ) 
shows that from the second and third centuries it indicated a life like that of the 
Apostles, that is to say, an ascetic life, the monastic life. We know that in 
Cassian's 1 8th Conference the history of the monastic movement is traced back to the 
Apostles and the fervor of their life. It wasn't until the sixth century that the 
'apostolic life' came to mean the active pastoral life. So basically, the apostolic 
way of life was a radical evangelical living, following Jesus as the Apostles did -- 
living the gospel without compromise. This way of life was idealized by Luke as he 
described the first Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles . Both of our 
Basic Constitutions have references to this Jerusalem community. 

This way of life preserves the "messianic and eschatological way of living in com- 
munity that was received from the Lord until he comes," as Father Congar has said. 
It comes to the fore at times of renewal in the Church and was an important factor 
for St. Dominic when he founded his Order. Some religious movements at that time 
were linking gospel poverty and preaching. They maintained that it was the gospel life 
in its imitation of the Apostles ( vi ta Apostol ica ) that was in itself a warrant for 
Christian preaching. The Church Councils at the time required an ecclesiastical 


permission. To be brief, we can say St. Dominic saw the solution in the combination -- 
authorized apostolic preaching with ecclesiastical approval and the v? ta Apostol ica , 
apostolic way of life or radical gospel poverty and living. He saw that preaching is 
sustained by the way of life, that the basis for a Spirit-filled proclamation of the 
Word is the following of Christ, the apostolic life. So it is by this 'way of life' 
that both the friars and nuns tend toward perfect love of God and neighbor. 

The paraphrase of Blessed Jordan's statement about St. Dominic which follows leads us 
into the core of the Founder's charism. Jesus Christ, Word of God and Savior of all, 
is at the center of our call to be Dominicans. St. Dominic and his gifted response 
is in some way the origin of our own gift to respond. To follow Christ in the spirit 
of St. Dominic is to be steeped in the mystery of Christ, the Savior. Our continual 
growth in charity brings with it an increase in compassion and desire for the salva- 
tion of humankind. 

Ours is a special call to search for the truth, to focus on the Word of God, to be 
completely penetrated by it. This is to put in the fore-front of our lives one of 
the essentials of Christianity. This would be true for all Dominicans. 

However, the manifestations of the same Spirit vary according to the gift. We see here 
the contrast between the Dominicans who proclaim the Word throughout the world and the 
nuns who seek, ponder and call upon him in secret. Our gift is to be alert and still 
before the Word -- to listen to the Word in Scripture, in creation, in one another, 
in all reality -- to cherish it and let it fructify within us in silence; to study its 
meaning and manifestations; to let it return to God in liturgical praise and petition, 
and in its fulfillment in our lives. 

We have become attuned to the language of the recent Council and the current Canon 
which speaks of the "hidden apostolic f ru i t fu Iness" of contemplat i ves . This is re- 
flected in the fifth paragraph of our Basic Constitution. But it is interesting to 
note that in the 13th century legislation for Dominican nuns there is no mention of 
their part in the ministry of the brethren. Of course, this has become explicit in 
our 20th century Constitutions. However, in the earlier centuries Rachel, who was 
beautiful but not fertile, symbolised the contemplative life. And the bleary eyed 
but fertile Leah symbolised what we call the active life. We find this in Jordan's 
Libe 1 lus when he moves from the account of St. Dominic's contemplative life in the 
monastery as a Canon Regular to the beginning of his travels. The same allegorical 
reference occurs in Raymond of Pennafort's letter to the prioress at Bologna in the 
1230s: "I am so busy with Leah's morning shortsightedness and fruitfulness that in 
my present position I cannot reach the beauty of Rachel to which I have aspired . . . 
since I was quite young. So it is a great joy and an enormous comfort to me to feel 
how I am helped by your prayers. I often think of this service which you and your 
sisters do for me, sitting as you do at the Lord's feet with Mary. ... Do not for- 
get, in your mutual uninterrupted love, to pray for me and beg alms for me in my 
poverty and need. Though it is but a small return . . ., I never stop praying for 
you." St. Peter Martyr makes the same clear distinction between his life and the 
kind of life lived by the nuns in his letter: "You take the wings of contemplation 
and soar above all this, but I am so stuck in the glue of concern for other people 
that I cannot fly. ... I cannot see the freedom of the children of God as 1 should 
like to. ... I cannot come in to breathe that air of freedom. Help me in your 
prayers, dearest sister." Probably more familiar to us are the many letters of 
Jordan to Diana and the nuns at Bologna, reporting on his ministry and requesting 
their prayer. And we have Cecilia's account of the nuns' conversations with St. 
Dominic at San Sisto in which he tells of his interests and labors. The point in 
relating all of this here is to remark that while there was no mention of the nuns' 
connection with the ministry of the friars in their early legislation, there is 
authentic record of their contacts and interest. 


If it is true that the effects of a contemplative life or its place in the life and 
mission of the Church had not yet been articulated at this time, we have no doubt 
about the stress St. Catherine lays on the value of a life of prayer and holiness 
in the l^th century. An ever-deepening awareness of God's mercy and his "infinite 
desire" for the salvation of all can give us a share in his own pathos and yearning 
to show mercy. Continually receiving his Word of forgiveness and salvation in our 
own lives, we grow in compassion for other sinners. We become a plea for mercy for 
the world. We do indeed share in the ministry of the Word of our Dominican brothers 
and s i sters . 

Paragraph three continues with the contemplative life -- giving the setting, attitudes 
and goal. It was Origin who first related the Martha-Mary story in Luke to the impor- 
tance of contemplation in the Christian life. We also find here the listening atti- 
tude, the continual need for conversion, turning from our illusory self to the true 
self within, made in God's image. It is not the world created by God and redeemed by 
Christ from which we turn, but the world distorted through sinfulness. In his first 
Conference Cassian uses the same guotation given here from Philippians in discussing 
the goal of the. monk. He says the immediate goal is purity of heart and the end is 
eternal life. I quote, "'I press toward the mark,' as if the Apostle said, 'With this 
aim, with which I forget those things that are behind, that is, the faults of earlier 
life, I strive to reach as the end the heavenly prize.'" And he continues, "Whatever 
then can help to guide us to this object, namely purity of heart, we must follow with 
all our might, but whatever hinders us from it, we must shun." 

We note here also the mention of "humility of heart", the basic monastic attitude of 
mind and heart which is opposed to worldly values in any age. Could this attitude, 
this renunciation, be an aspect of the poverty stressed in the Basic Constitution of 
the Order? A final remark on this paragraph should be made about the consecration 
to Christ through profession, and the love for Christ. Dominican spirituality can be 
said to be Chr i stocentr ic, related to the humanity of Jesus in a special way -- and 
with the added nuance of his humanness as a personal manifestation of God for the 
good of humankind. "To this day," wrote Jordan about the monastery at Prouille, 
"the handmaids of Christ there offer acceptable service to their Maker, leading 
vigorously holy lives, in outstanding innocence and purity. ..." I am sure Father 
Boniface will elucidate the Chr i stocentr i c nature of the gospel counsels we profess! 

Paragraph four begins in a way that is very familiar to us from the Acts of the Apos- 
t 1 es and from the Rule of St. Augustine. How many times have we heard, "Be of one 
mind and one heart in the Lord, since this is the end for which you are come here."? 
Our text tells us we are "made one" by the teaching of the Apostles and by praying 
daily with one heart. Continual pondering of the Word which comes to us through the 
Apostles, and constant prayer together every day with one heart make us one. Much 
could be said about Dominican common life and common prayer. In this context I 
would just like to recall something Father Congar quoted from a French Dominican nun: 
"What is important is unity in charity, so that our choral prayer does not become a 
lie and that we can chant, all of us with a single heart, in the first person singu- 
lar: 'My God, hear my cry, hear my prayer.'" The Word forms in us a biblical mental 
attitude and, with the constant praying of the psalms, a certain transformation of 
consc iousness . 

While the whole monastic tradition looks to the Church in "Jerusalem described in Acts^ 
as an ideal for life in common, it is the Rule of St. Augustine that makes it the focal 
point of life in a monastery. Augustine's concern with the value of community sets a 
tone which differentiates his monasticism from that of the East or of Europe, and 
which leads to an emphasis on the relationship of brothers or sisters to one another. 
While the basic observances of Augustine's monasticism are the traditional monastic 
practices, life in his monastery is dominated by the demands of fraternal charity. 


Augustine's sense of the need to regain unity has been considered the most distinc- 
tive strand in his mystigue of the Church as a whole. For him the Church was a 
microcosm of the re-established unity of the human race: it had already united people 
in their languages at Pentecost. In founding his monastery, Augustine wished to 
recreate around him the same community as the Apostles had created when they received 
this gift of the Spirit. Such a monastery was to be a microcosm of the ideal human 
relationships that might be partially re-established in the Church. Rather than see- 
ing this as an alternative to the society around him, he regarded the society as so 
much raw material to be absorbed and transformed. (Cf. P. Brown, AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO.) 

The word 'monk' was originally derived from a word that means 'one' or 'alone'. 
For Augustine, monks are those who so live in unity that they form one person, "so 
that they really possess, as the Scripture says, 'one mind and one heart'" (Com. on 
Ps. 132) 

The remainder of this paragraph speaks of persevering with Mary in our life of prayer, 
of reflecting the radiance of the Lord's glory, and of being transformed into his 
image. Each of these topics calls for a paper on its own. I am sure Sister Mary 
Catherine will treat of the image and transformation themes, which go back to Origin, 
Gregory of Nyssa'and others. 

In paragraph five, the first long sentence has only one verb -- and that is "seek." 
The nuns seek God with their whole way of life as monastic women. They do this in a 
distinctively Dominican way: "in the freedom of the Spirit." This phrase is identi- 
fied as a guotation from Innocent IV (May 11, 1252) in the British and French trans- 
lations. I would like to come back to it after a few other observations. It seems 
to be specially important, although we do not know any more about the document from 
wh ich it is guoted. 

We could probably translate the word "uniform" in some other way. However, it is 
clearly an allusion to the Primitive Constitutions of San Sisto which exhorted to 
"uniformity in the rule of your life." This notion is retained and further expanded 
in the Constitutions by Humbert of Romans. It also appears as a prologue in the 1930 

We note in this section three of the recent revisions made in our Basic Constitution: 
working "diligently" (in place of "with their hands") , the study element of our life 
(as members of an Order at the service of the Word, of the gospel, and the first to 
nave a ' study- 1 aw 1 ) , and finally the addition "pursuing communion through their 
manner of government." We look to Sister Mary Magdalen and Father Liam to delve into 
che study and lect io elements, and to Father Doyle for a word on government. 

"Pursuing communion" is a rich expression. The Spirit, the principle of unity, 
"does not bring about unity by using pressure or by reducing the whole of the Church's 
life to a uniform pattern. He does it," as Father Congar says, "by the more delicate 
way of communion." He continues, "The Church is not only the enclosure or 'sheepfold', 
but also the 'flock' of individual sheep, each of which the shepherd calls by its own 
name. . . . The Spirit can further God's plan, which can be expressed in the words 
' commun ion ', 'many in one', ' un i plura 1 i ty ' . At the end, there will be a state in which 
God will be 'everything to everyone' (l Cor. 15:28), in other words, there will be one 
life animating many without doing violence to the inner experience of anyonei" This 
guotation seemed to be a most fitting commentary. The Spirit is given to the community 
and to individual persons. Recognizing the community as the locus of the Spirit 
surely gives its deepest meaning to the importance of Chapters in Dominican govern- 

iiien t . 


We note the ecclesial dimension of our life "at the heart of the Church" with its 
bearing fruit in the growth of the people of God -- the purpose of the Order referred 
to in the first paragraph of the Basic Constitution of the Order. Our 'prophetic 1 
mission is hidden, but no less real than that of our Dominican brothers and sisters. 

Finally in the last paragraph we come to Dominican obedience, so aptly expressed in the 
Rule of St. Augustine: "not as slaves under the law but as free under grace." Father 
Til lard tells us that the Constitutions have their main value as a path toward the 
Gospel. He says, "By means of my Constitutions, I learn to obey the Gospel." Let us 
add, with the thought of our brother Thomas, that all written or external law can only 
be the expression of the interior law of the Spirit. St. Thomas teaches us that the 
New Law is chiefly the grace of the Holy Spirit. "According to Augustine, the 
Christian into whom the Holy Spirit has poured the love of God will spontaneously 
observe a law which can be summed up in love. . . . The content of the law is the norm 
for his action, but he is not subjected to the restraints of a law because he has 
interiorized the law." (Congar) Internalizing our Constitutions is the theme of our 
Assembly. We could let St. Thomas relate this to freedom and, I think, to the reason 
St. Dominic was so determined to lead us in this way. "The one who avoids evil because 
it is an evil is free. It is here that the Holy Spirit works, inwardly perfecting our 
spirit by communicating to i t a new dynamism, and this functions so well that a person 
refrains from evil through love, as though divine law were ordering him to do this. 
He is therefore free not because he is not subject to divine law, but because his inner 
dynamism leads him to do what divine law prescribes." Father Congar has said thart 
"the Spirit is a law imposed not by pressure, but by appeal." In keeping with this, 
the Rule of St. Augustine is its own best commentary: "May the Lord grant that, as 
lovers of the beauty of the spiritual life and breathing forth the sweet odor of Christ 
in the holiness of your ways, you may faithfully observe these things, not like slaves 
under the bondage of the law, but like children free in the liberty of divine grace." 

The concluding sentence is from Jordan's Libel lus in which he summed up the meaning of 
our life in the classic monastic terminology of his time. Perhaps a fitting conclu- 
sion for this commentary is from the nuns' Chronicles at Bologna in the 13th century 
with their final portrait of Blessed Diana. "After thirteen years in the Order, the 
venerable sister Diana, worthy of God, went happily to the Lord. The whole community 
of Friars Preachers in Bologna, with their prior, came to the funeral, and they buried 
her venerable body, with all due honor, enclosed in a wooden coffin, near the altar of 
St. Agnes. . . . This happy woman was extremely sensible and well spoken, and she had 
a beautiful face and an attractive appearance; in the eyes of all she was charming and 
lovable. She was upright, devoted to the worship of God, intent on prayer, and so 
given to devotion that she often moved her sisters to floods of tears. She was a 
great lover of the brethren and of the Order. She was deeply humble in her own mind, 
and wore a cheaper habit than anyone; she was remarkably enthusiastic for rigorous 
reliqious observance in herself and in others. These and other similar gifts adorned 
thii, si^Ler of ours, this sister who was worthy of God." 

Seeing something of the richness of our heritage and our Dominican Monastic Identity 
is an incentive to internalize it, keep it alive in our day, and pass it on to the 
next generations! 



I. The nuns of the Order of Preachers came into being when our holy Father 
Dominic gathered together in the monastery of St. Mary of Prouille certain women 
converted to the catholic faith. These women, free for God alone (soli Deo vaoantes) , 
he associated with his "Holy Preaching" by their prayer and penance. The blessed 
Father indicated a rule of life to be followed and constantly manifested a father's 
love and care for these nuns, and for others subsequently founded in the same way 
at other places. In fact, "they had no other master who instructed them concerning 
the Order" (l). Afterwards he entrusted them, as part of the same Order, to the 
fraternal care of his sons. 

(1) Bl. Cecilia, "Miracles of St. Dominic," n. 7 

II. By their way of life (sua aonversatione ) both the friars and the nuns tend 
toward perfect love of God and neighbor, that true charity which effectively shows 
concern for and obtains the salvation of humankind. They are convinced they are 
truly members of Christ only when they spend themselves completely in winning souls, 
just as the Lord Jesus, Savior of us all, gave himself up entirely for our salvation. (1) 
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, one charity, one mercy. It is 
for the friars, the sisters and laity of the Order, "to proclaim throughout the world 
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2), and for the nuns to seek him, to ponder and 
call upon him, in secret, so that the Word which goes forth from the mouth of God will 
not return to him without fruit, but will accomplish those things for which he sent 
it. (cf. Is. 55:10) 

(1) cf. Jordan, Libellus , n. 13 (2) Honorius III, January 18, 1221 

III. Called by God to remain, like Mary, seated at the feet of Jesus and to listen 
to his words (cf. Lk. 10:39), they are converted to the Lord, withdrawing from the 
empty preoccupations and illusions of the world. Forgetting what lies behind and 
reaching out for what lies ahead (cf. Phil. 3:13), they are consecrated to Christ through 
profession of the evangelical counsels. In purity and humility of heart, in a living 
and continual contemplation, they love Christ who is in the bosom of the Father. 

IV. Emulating the Church in Jerusalem which was made one by the teaching of the 
Apostles and by praying daily with one heart (cf. Acts 2:42), the nuns offer a 
sacrifice of praise in the sight of God, especially in the celebration of the liturgy. 
Persevering in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, they ardently long for the fullness 
of the Holy Spirit so that with unveiled face they may behold (or reflect) the Glory 
of the Lord and be transformed into his image, from splendor to splendor, by the Spirit 
of the Lord (cf . 2 Cor. 3: 18) . 

V. The nuns seek God "in the freedom of the Spirit" (l), uniform in living the 
rule of the purely contemplative life, maintaining their withdrawal from the world 
through enclosure and silence, working diligently, eager in the study of truth, 
searching the Scriptures with an ardent heart, intent on prayer, practicing willing 
penance, pursuing communion through their manner of government. So it is that in 
purity of heart (conscience) and the joy of sisterly concord, they seek the God who now 
makes them dwell in unity in the house and on the last day will gather them together in 
the holy City, a people acquired as his own. At the heart of the Church, their growth 
in charity is mysteriously fruitful for the growth of the people of God, and by their 
hidden life they proclaim prophetically that Christ alone is true happiness, through 
grace in the present and glory in the life to come. 
(1) Innocent IV, May 11, 1252 

VI. Making profession of obedience according to the same Constitutions, "not as 
slaves under the law but as free under grace," they will wisely look into these 
Constitutions as a mirror of their own fidelity to the call of God; and thus they 
will live a life "conducive to salvation for themselves, an example to others, 
a joy to the angels, and pleasing to God." (l) 

(1) Jordan, Libellus, n. 27 (Unofficial translation for 

Assembly presentation) 



--with some excerpts from a Commentary by M.H. Vicafre, O.P. 

l) The purpose of the Order was described by Pope Honorius III in writing to Saint 
Dominic and his brethren in these words: "God, who continually makes his Church fruit- 
ful in new children, wishing to bring our times into conformity with earlier (apostolic) 
days and spread the Catholic faith, has inspired you to embrace a life of poverty and 
regular observance and to devote yourselves to preaching the Word of God and pro- 
claiming the name of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world." 

-. . . The 'new children' wherewith God fertilizes his Church is not the 
Order of Preachers; it is the people that those Preachers bring to the 

-To be underlined in the words of Honorius is the declaration as to the 
way of life that sustains the evangel ical activity of the Order of Preachers: 
' poverty -and regular life.' It could be added, in accordance with the Bulls 
and other documents , that this condition of life is the source of the 
apostolic energies of the Preachers , the motivation of the mission confided 
to them by the Church, the reason which recommends them to the Catholic prelates . 

II) The Order of preaching friars founded by Saint Dominic "was recognized from the 
beginning as having been established particularly for preaching and the salvation of 
souls." So, according to the bidding of their founder, our brethren "live everywhere 
like upright religious men who seek their own salvation and that of others and, like 
the men of the Gospels, following in the footsteps of our Lord, speak to God or 
about God among themselves and with others." 

-The expression 'like the men of the Gospels' is, indeed, to be remarked; 
Jordan of Saxony has an echo of it in the portrait of Saint Dominic which he 
outlines at the end of his Libellus : "he showed himself throughout to be 
v i r evangel icu s in word and in deed". The quotation as a whole describes this 
evangelical life as a 'following of Christ,' and more precisely here as 
s equela Salvatoris (following of the Savior) . It is customary to interpret this 
expression as an "imitation" of Christ in accordance with the "evangelical 
counsels" of poverty , chastity , obedience , which encases and notably reduces 
its content. This following of the Master and walking in his footsteps means 
for the Preacher being associated with the company of the twelve, that is to 
say, participating in the common life of Christ and the apostles as well as 
in thi^ir ministry. . . . 

-The last part of the phrase tells us precisely what it is that makes the 
synthesis of the two aspects of Dominican life operable and avoids any sort of 
iluulism. The formula is well known; Dominic "caused it to be inscribed in the 
Huh- ol ; the Friars Preachers" at the first General Chapter of Bologna: 
"to speak only with God or about God, amongst themselves or with their neighbor ." 
The synthesis is effected in its object; our life will have the more unity 
the more our actions bring us closer to God. . . . 

The important thing for us is that it is from pure contemplatives that our 
founder borrows the most celebrated formula on the life of the Preachers , proof 
if need be of the depth of contemplation he would see in his friars. 

ll I. To perfect our love of God and neiqhbor in the following of Christ, by religious 
profession we are enrolled in the Order, completely consecrated to God, in a new way 
dedicated to the whole Church and "totally engaged in spreading the Word of God." 

-With us the evangelization of the Word oC God is part of our 'following of Christ,' 
which is ensured for us, in all its elements , by participation in our Dominican 
community life; consecration to God necessarily commits us in a new way to the 
Church and this commitment is, m the Order, essentially the duty of evangelizing 
the Word of Cod. 

IV. Because we share in the mission of the Apostles, we also follow their way of life 
as Saint Dominic conceived it: with one mind leading a common life; faithful to the 
evangelical counsels; fervent in the common celebration of the liturgy, especially, the 
Eucharist and the Divine Office, and in prayer; committed to a life of study and con- 
stant in religious observance. All these practices contribute not only to the glory of 
God and our own sanct i f i cat ion , but are of direct assistance in the salvation of other 
men, since they prepare and impel us to preach and galvanize our preaching; while 
preaching, in turn, contributes to our religious perfection. These elements are all 
inter-connected;' they modify and enliven one another and, in their total harmony, are 
the life of the Order. In the fullest sense this is an apostolic life in which teach- 
ing and preaching ought to spring from the fullness of contemplation. 

-In this paragraph we see the express appearance of the apostolic dyad missio - 
communio un which the whole of the fundamental constitution is constructed . This 
pair at terms makes clear the specific nature of the Order and gives reason for the 
unity of the substantial elements of its structure and its life. The unity of 
the life of the friars, indeed, which derives already from the community of super- 
natural purpose in their basic acts (with God or about God), follows also from 
the evangelical prototype upon which the founder formal ly modelled himself , the 
life of the apostles in its over-all completeness. . . . It has as its basis an 
extremely vital logical bond between the mission of the apostles — the evangeli- 
zation of the Word of God dealt with in the first three paragraphs — and the 
community of the same apostles which is the object of most of the other paragraphs 
in our present constitution. 

V. Since, by priestly ordination, we are co-workers with the episcopacy, we have as 
our special charge the prophetical function, by which -- with due regard for the chang- 
ing conditions of men, times and places -- the Gospel of Jesus Christ is announced by 
word and deed throughout the world, so that divine faith is aroused or more profoundly 
penetrates the whole of the Christian life and builds up the Body of Christ -- which 
work is completed in the sacraments of faith. 

-The ministry of evangelization is a participation in the apostolic mission 
entrusted to the bishops, making us their cooperators . It is a participation 
in the prophetic role of Christ, a participation which, according to Vatican II, 
is to be met with from different angles in the sacred hierarchy and in the 
Christian people. . . . 


VI. The structure of the Order as a religious society originates in its mission and 
its life as a community of brothers. Since to dispense the Word of God and the Sacra- 
ments of Faith is a priestly task, ours is a clerical religious community. But the 
cooperator brothers share in its work in a variety of ways because they too, in their 
chosen role, exercise the common priesthood. 

The total dedication of the Friar Preacher to the proclamation of the Gospel by word 
and deed is also demonstrated by this fact: by solemn profession his life and mission 
are completely and perpetually joined to the life and mission of Christ. 

Since the Order, working in union with the Church has a mission to the whole world, by 
its nature it is universal. The better to carry out this mission the Order is an 
exempt clerical society and yet it has its own unity in the Master General of the Order, 
to whom as head of our brotherhood we are directly bound by our profession. Our 
mission of study and Gospel preaching demains that every member be available for 
worldwide service. 

In view of the Order's mission, each of the brethren should be willing to accept 
responsibility and seek to develop his personal talents. As his formation progresses, 
every brother is to be treated as a mature man, for he will have to teach others and 
assume many duties in the Order. Hence the Order does not wish its laws to oblige 
under pain of sin, in order that the brethren should accept these laws "not like slaves 
under the bondage of the law, but like free men under grace." 

Because of the purpose of the Order, Superiors have the power to dispense from our laws 
"when they judge it is sometimes expedient to do so, especially in matters which might 
hinder study, preaching or the spiritual welfare of souls." 

-Paragraphs VI and VII reduce to practice the dual apostol ic commitment Mission - 
Community previously defined , in order to show the development of the essential 
characteristics of the Order as a spiritual society and the original shape of 
its system of government . . . . 

-. . .It is in the third section that the collegial character is best brought out, 
when it recalls the need the Order has to expand to the full the personal grace 
of each friar and to give him his measure of responsibility , as soon as he is 
capable of it, within the bosom of our society. 

-The expression, non obligant ad culpam , is traditional, which is why our text 
accepts it as it is. It is not entirely clear. It does not mean that the matters 
proposed by our Constitutions are placed for us outside the moral order and are 
without obligation to the point of excluding actions that are culpable . Humbert 
of Romans remarks on this point: "it cannot be admitted that we are not obliged 
by our constitutions; we are obliged , but differently from others" . How? 
" Sapienter (wisely) ," he replies, the same word as is used in the fundamental 
constitution, in the sense that we do not engage to act mechanically according to 
the constitutions , as though the material fact of not acting according to their 
requirements automatically involved sin. From our Dominican view of things this 
involves sin only in terms of the actual and psychological context; put succinctly 

if failure to observe the constitutions is the result of contempt. That is to 
say, if the failure- were inspired by a culpable disregard of the right on the part 
of the Dominican community to prescribe certain requirements pertinent to the pur- 
pose of the Order, and of the general wisdom of the things laid down. The New Law 
is a light guiding us in the direction inspired in us interiorly by grace; it makes 
us free and not slaves, as did the Old Law. That is the meaning of the final 
sentence taken from the Rule of St. Augustine. 


VII. The communal yet worldwide character of our religious society shapes the form 
of its government. In this government, the outstanding feature is the organic and 
balanced participation of all its members in the pursuit of the goal of the Order. For 
the Order is not limited to the local community (although this is its basic unit), but 
is extended to the province as a community of communities and to the whole Order as a 
community of provinces. Therefore, authority, which is completely realized and univer- 
sal at the summit, that is, in General Chapters and the Master of the Order, is propor- 
tionally exercised by provinces and local communities, with fitting self-government. 
Consequently, our government is in its own special way communi tar i an , since, for the 
most part, superiors are elected by the brethren and confirmed by a superior at a higher 
level. Moreover, in the conduct of important affairs, communities share in many ways 
in their own government through chapter or council. 

This communitarian form of government offers an excellent means for the Order to develop 
and subject itself to frequent self-examination. For, with equal rights and freedom, 
the superiors and all the brethren, through their delegates in General Chapters of 
provincials and diffinitors, are able, by common effort, to see to it that the goal of 
the Order is achieved and that the Order itself is fittingly renewed. This continuing 
self-study is demanded not only by the spirit of continual Christian conversion but also 
by the special vocation of the Order which obliges it to present itself to the world 
in a way that is adapted to each new generation. 

-This paragraph is intended , briefly, to characterize the organization of the 
government of the Order by the dynamic interplay between the different "communions" 
of which it is made and up and its universal "mission." . . . 

VIII. The essential purpose of the Order and the way of life inspired by it are 
important in every age of the Church. Nevertheless, as we learn from our own history, 
it is in times of great change and evolution that it is most urgent that we rightly 
understand and gauge this life and purpose. At such times, it is the genius'of our 
Order to renew and adapt itself courageously. it must seek out and examine all that 
is good and useful in the aspirations of contemporary man and incorporate them into 
the changeless harmony of the basic elements of its own life. For, although these 
basic elements of our Order cannot be changed, yet they ought to inspire forms of 
living and preaching that are fitted to the needs of contemporary man and the Church. 

- . . .Although the Chapter wanted to give to the fundamental constitution a 
greater stability than that given to the rest, it nevertheless did not work out 
any method of stabilizing it other than that of the three successive Chapters . 
From a legal point of view, therefore , the text remains revisable by that same 
process. Thus it is not for purely judicial reasons that the fundamental con- 
stitution should have exceptional stability in the eyes of the Preachers; it is 
because of the very nature of its prescriptions constitutionally laid down by 
by the Order and underlined in the wording used, and also because of its 
position as a Prologue and by its unusual title. 

IX. The Dominican family is composed of clerical and cooperator brothers, nuns, 
sisters, members of secular institutes and lay and priestly fraternities. The 
following Constitutions and Ordinations concern the brethren only, unless expressly 
stated otherwise. They seek to impart necessary unity to the Order without denying 
appropriate diversity within the framework of these laws. 

-The last paragraph of the fundamental constitution gives an enumeration of the 
members of the "Dominican family," of what might be called, as in the 1932 
Constitutions, "the whole combination of the Order of Preachers" — Or do Praedica- 
torum universus . This enumeration clearly had its place at the head of a piece of 
legislation which was, nevertheless, about to be declared applicable exclusively 


commentary on paragraph IX, continued 

only to a section of its members. . . . 

The final sentence , which in a certain way caps the whole of the legislation for the 
Friars, recognizes in principle a certain diversity in the manner of life within the 
Order. To make sure that this diversity does not develop into anarchy nor destroy 
the functional unity without which neither the Order nor its universal mission could 
exist, provision has to be made for this diversity in the Constitutions themselves , 
sole judge as to the limits of decentralization possible. This very prescription is 
itself a decentralizing one. This is immediately apparent if it is noted that the 
sentence has been deliberately substituted for the one which, from the origin of the 
Order, ended the Prologue to our Constitutions , and also noted that the text originally 
proposed by the central commission reads as follows: 

It is right that, living as we do under a single rule and vowed to the same 
profession , we should be equally uniform in the observance of our canonical 
religious life, in such a way that the unity we have to preserve in our 
inmost hearts may be reanimated and externally manifested by the uniformity 
of our way of life. 

It is certain that the cultural unity of Christian Europe at the time of the founda- 
tion of the Order, and for a long time afterwards, has given place in our own day to 
a worldwide diversity of culture which demands not only decentralization but also a 
relative diversity in the collective ways of life within the Order. Inversely , the 
difficulty of communication in the Christian world of the past called insistently 
for uniformity in order to ensure unity, which unity the present means of communica- 
tion ensure in other ways. The essential thing is that we should succeed in attaining 
among ourselves today, as in the past, the one indisputable aim, a real apostolic 
unanimity : cor unum et animam unam in Deo . ( Acts 4:32) 

(Reprinted from CIDOMINFOR, March 22, 1969.) 


Sister M. Catherine, O.P. 
El mi ra 

On the balmy late September afternoon that I received the invitation to offer a 
few thoughts on religious consecration to this Assembly, I felt both grateful and 
overwhelmed by the challenge. My first thought was: what does religious conse- 
cration mean to me and how have I experienced it personally? This question made 
me reflect upon the beginnings of my religious life in our monastery in Elmira 
where I came many years ago as the result of a divine call, an irresistable 
attraction to a life of direct encounter with and total dedication to God. I 
envisioned this dedication as a conformity of wills, of my will to the will of God. 
I recall that on the day of my perpetual profession I wrote on the back of my 
profession card which I still keep in my Bible: "I must spend myself in one un- 
ceasing act of loving conformity to the holy will of God and thus perfectly ful- 
fil my apostolic vocation. I have nothing to give him but my will. God does not 
need our works, only infinite desires." I had drawn my main inspiration for this 
from Psalm 40, verses 7 to 9 as applied and explained in the Letter to the 
Hebrews , chapter 10, verses 5 to 10. The verses of the psalm are as follows: 
"Sacrifice or oblation you wished not, 

but ears open to obedience you gave me. 
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not; 

then said I, 'Behold I come; 

in the written scroll it is prescribed for me. 
To do your will, my God, is my delight, 

and your law is within my heart!" 
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews adapts this text somewhat in the light of 
the mystery of Christ. In place of 'ears open to obedience' he has: "a body 
you have prepared for me." Then, after quoting the words: "I have come to do your 
will", he explains: "By this 'will', we have been sanctified through the offering 
of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." I found my vocation within this con- 
text. This will of God was a perpetual call within the depths of my being, the 
'law within my inmost heart' as the psalm has it. I think my original ideal, 
though it has developed and evolved to some extent, and even brought out to me my 
own weaknesses, failures and limitations, still remains as a basic orientation of 
grace integrating all the elements in our way of life: the vows, prayer, work, 
common life and the rest. 

That is a long introduction to my subject but my point is that I would like 
to treat this ensemble of elements in the rather long section of the Constitutions 
I am dealing with - Nos. 2 - 79 - as a single whole. I think this is the way we 
experience them in our monastic life, increasingly so as we grow older. Our 
whole way of life, encompassing all of its elements becomes an ever deepening 
prayer. And this view is as old as Origen in the third century. In his treatise 
On Prayer (XII, 2) he says: 

"The only way we can accept the command to 'pray constantly' as referring to 

a real possibility is by saying that the entire life of the saint taken as 

a whole is a single great prayer." ' 
He goes on to explain how all the elements and aspects of our daily life are 
gathered together by an underlying orientation towards God and this whole thrust 
of our life is prayer at its deepest level The Fathers and monastic legis- 
lators after Origen took this same line of thought. What I hope to do in this 
paper is to review quickly our Dominican origins concerning religious consecration; 
then to present briefly the doctrine of the human person as the image of God as 
a unifying and very old Christian and monastic theme; and finally, to bring these 
two sections together in some sort of creative way in the light of our Constitu- 
tions and of ourselves as human persons concretely living out the Dominican mode 
of life today. All of you know as well or better than I do the theology of 
religious consecration, so my hope is that by taking the above outlined approach 
I will be able simply to share with you my own thoughts and experience and so in 


turn to evoke yours so that we can share all of this more easily and deeply together 
at this Assembly and in various ways in the future. 

In the first paragraph of No. 40 of our Constitutions we are told: 
"Regular observance, adopted by Saint Dominic from the past or introduced 
by him, so contribute to the life of the nuns that they are assisted in the 
resolve to follow Christ more closely and to exercise more effectively the 
contemplative life in the Order of Preachers." 
We find here our link with early monastic tradition. This was taken over by 
Dominic who added the adaptations applicable to his charism and purpose such as 
study and the notion of dispensation. The latter may be at least remotely derived from 
the early monastic notion of discretion of which he was well aware from his reading 
of Cassian. In the Rule of St. Sixtus which, it is said, incorporated the earlier 
legislation for the first nuns of Prouille, all of which has Dominic himself as 
author and compiler, we know there are borrowings from both Cistercian and Pre- 
monstratensian legislation, and these in turn very clearly reflect the early mon- 
astic tradition coming through Cassian especially. Putting the St. Sixtus text 
side by side with the earlier rules of Basil, Augustine and Benedict, one is struck 
by the basic similarity in essentials of observance and even in the way they are 
expressed. The opening number of the section of our Constitutions we are dealing 
with has the same reference to the Acts of the Apostles and to the primitive "Vita 
Apostolica" which the rules of Basil and Benedict incorporate farther on. The 
Rule of St. Sixtus, however, is a much more juridical type of document than the 
Rules of Basil, Augustine and Benedict which seem to be presupposed as i 
background and which incorporate frequent texts of Scripture as the basic 
source of monastic life. The penal code of the St. Sixtus Rule, taken from the 
customs of Premontre, takes up approximately one third of the entire text. The 
remainder contains the legislation for regular observance, the essentials of which 
are the same as in the older rules and the same as what we have today. Does the 
juridical nature of the St. Sixtus Rule express the whole of St. Dominic's spirit 
and desire for his nuns? Besides this Rule there are, as far as we know, only 
three other documents of his left in writing, all of them rather brief, terse, 
business like letters. The testimony of his contemporaries gives us quite another 
picture of the man: one totally devoted to reading and meditation on. Scripture, 
devoted to prayer, a lover of the brethren and the nuns often expressed in touching 
human ways, a compassionate, enthusiastic, joyful, almost charming man, one fully 
aware of and with a strong taste for the deep currents of spirituality in monastic 
tradition as evidenced by his devotion to the Conferences of Cassian. My own con- 
clusion is that Dominic was a preacher not a writer, one who was at his best in 
direct conversation and human contact, not able fully to express himself in writing. 
If this was not so, why have his followers not preserved more of his writings? 
There is a marked contrast here with his successor, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, from 
whom fifty to sixty letters of great beauty and profound spirituality have come 
down to us. Jordan's letters are his own, the expression of his own personality, 
yet surely they breathe the spirit of Dominic to whom he was so obviously and com- 
pletely devoted as to a spiritual father. Let us look at these letters briefly. 

Jordan's letters are a mosaic of Scripture with multiple references to almost 
every book of the Bible, the psalms in particular in line with all the earlier mon- 
astic writers, along with the Song of Songs, a book popular in medieval monastic 
circles, and Paul's letters. Jordan's doctrine is very Christo-centric and Christ 
is most frequently the Bridegroom, so that he sees the Dominican monastic life of 
the nuns as a personal relationship of love with Christ. Most important of all is 
a gaze of loving desire fixed on Christ which would include recollection, prayer, 
sacred reading, lectio divina. Such a gaze fosters the renunciations which are 
inherent in the monastic life as the means of self emptying in order to put on the 
mind of Christ and to practice virtue, especially the traditional monastic 
virtues of humility, obedience, patience, and above all and in all, charity. This 
is the spiritual combat leading to purity of heart. He sees the practice of virtue 


as far more important than the external corporal observances of vigils and fasting, 
which he recognizes, nonetheless, as traditional monastic elements. Consequently, 
all the exercises of the monastic way must be guided by genuine moderation and 
discretion, and there is nothing Jordan comes back to more frequently than this. 
He shows how all monastic observance, the practice of virtue and the work of the 
spiritual life are to be carried out within the characteristically Dominican con- 
text of community life, sisterly concord, and a spirit of constant joy and con- 
fidence. He refers to the Rule of St. Augustine several times, and to St. Bernard 
also. From the above description it seems evident that he must have been familiar 
with traditional monastic sources, including Cassian and Benedict. We must surely 
assume also that, having brought several nuns from the convent of St. Sixtus in 
Rome to form the members of the new community of St. Agnes in Bologna, he was 
familiar with the Rule of St. Sixtus and with Dominic's intentions for his nuns. 

I think, perhaps, to get the whole picture of the life of our earliest nuns and 
to sense the real spirit and inner dynamic of the original Dominican monastic life, 
it may be helpful to combine in some way the Rule of St. Sixtus and Jordan's letters 
to the nuns of St. Agnes which flesh out the skeleton. All of this will shed light 
on the interpretation of our present revised Constitutions. The Constitutions of 
1930 more clearly reflect the St. Sixtus text, but our new Constitutions, though 
faithful to our earliest legislation and Dominic's charism as evidenced in Jordan's 
letters, are based on the directives of Vatican Council II which called for a less 
juridical and a more Scripture oriented text. Keeping the above historical back- 
ground in mind, how can we best utilize this new text so as to find in the obser- 
vances which make up the means of our religious consecration a unified spiritual 
way of going to the Father in Christ? A theme to synthesize all of these elements 
into a single movement towards God can be helpful. 

.. There are many approaches we might take to synthesize the elements of our observance 
and see them in relation to the spiritual life. I have chosen one of the most 
prominent throughout the history of Christian and monastic spirituality, that of 
the human person as the image of God. The doctrine has its source in the first 
chapter of the Book of Genesis where, at the climax of the creation account God 
says: "Let us make man in our image, after our 1 ikeness. " (Gen. 1:26). 
The theme is implicit in the Law, the Prophets and the Wisdom literature of the Old 
Testament and in the Gospels and St. Paul. Very briefly the doctrine is this: the 
human person is created in the image of God particularly in those faculties of 
memory, intellect and will which are exclusive to him among creatures of earth. 
This is expressed by the Genesis author in terms of man's dominion over the rest of 
creation which would include the elements of his own physical being. Man turned away 
from God by sin and attempted to live in isolated self sufficiency. This rupture 
with God darkened and distorted man's spiritual faculties and so also created dis- 
tortions and divisions within the passions and emotions and in the material organism 
itself so that deterioration and death result. God's loving plan is to reverse this 
disorder by his own power and to. restore the purity of his image in man. To accom- 
plish this, the Word, the perfect divine image of God, came forth from the Father 
and descended at a given moment of time into a human nature like ours. By his 
obedience even to death on a cross he was raised up and returned to the Father 
bearing in himself our humanity now glorified. It is through him that we are once 
again empowered to return to God by becoming like to him. This turning back or 
conversion implies the struggle to break with sin and build up habits of virtue so 
that the whole being, body, soul, spirit is once again unified in and under God. 
This is the work of the spiritual life in which nature is brought to its proper ful- 
fillment through grace. St. Paul speaks of this as a flesh-spirit antithesis, a 
struggle to overcome the flesh's downward movement and to live in the elan of the 
spirit, a putting away of the old self and progressively putting on by experimental 
knowledge resulting from growth in virtue culminating in the fullness of charity 
that likeness to God to which we are called in Christ as adopted children of God. 


The Fathers of the Church, beginning with Origen and the Greek Fathers, 
elaborated the image doctrine and built around it a whole program of the spiritual 
life, which they saw as essentially the recovery of the divine imaqe in the human 
soul whose spiritual journey begins at baptism. St. Basil, in 
his Rule, makes the basis of the monastic life and progress rest upon the double 
commandment of love of God and neighbor as he perceives this orientation written in 
our yery nature as image and likeness of God. This requires, for him, continual 
remembrance of God which demands various renunciations of the world, sensible 
pleasures, material goods and one's own will. Cassian speaks in his first Con- 
ference on the end and purpose of monastic life of 'the nobler part of man, in 
which as the blessed Apostle shows, the image and likeness of God consists' which 
is to be restored once again through purity of heart, the attainment of which- 
through the renunciations, is the work of the monastic life. Benedict, in the 
Prologue to his Rule, speaks of returning to God by the Tabor of obedience 
which for him is the all encompassing thrust of conversion. 
The monastic writers of the 12th and 13th centuries, St. Bernard and the Cistercian 
School, Hugh and Richard of St. Victor, and our own St. Thomas Aquinas, and later 
St. Catherine and the Rhineland School, continued this teaching adding their own 
medieval emphases. Medieval man was deeply concerned with who and what he was; 
treatises on the human soul were abundant; self knowledge became 'very important, 
as well as the concept of order, harmony, synthesis among the levels of creation. 
There was a growing preoccupation with the humanity of Christ. He is the Way we 
follow in his human nature and earthly life, in our journey back to God. His life 
must grow and develop within us by the action of the Holy Spirit and personal 

In modern times there is a revival of the image doctrine consequent upon the 
return to Scripture and the Fathers as our Christian sources. The Council document 
on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium Et Spes , devotes its first chapter to the 
dignity of the human person and opens with several paragraphs in which the human 
person as the image of God, based on the Genesis text, is expounded and related to 
modern needs and problems. The teaching is repeated by modern popes, especially 
Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Redemptor Hominis and Domini cae Cenae , by 
many modern theologians, and especially in our revised liturgical texts. In these texts 
throughout the entire liturgical year, especially Christmas-Epiphany time," Lent, 
the Easter Vigil, the feasts of Annunciation and Transfiguration, and in the 
Preface to the fourth Eucharistic Prayer, we are given a complete and rich theology 
of the image as we meditate on Christ who became like to us in his Incarnation so 
that we might become like to him in his divine nature by transformation in grace. 

It is impossible, within the scope of this paper, to do justice to this theme 
and the light it sheds on our monastic life, but as a transition into the final 
section I should like to mention that Blessed Jordan's spiritual teaching does not 
pass over the image doctrine. In letter 8 to Diana he writes: 

"Let your hearts be always filled with a burning desire for the blessed city of 
the saints in paradise. . .that abode of light, radiant with the splendor of utter 
beauty, far exceeding the understanding of man: a realm truly divine, worthy 
to be the dwelling place of him who is created in the image and likeness of God." 

We come into this divine realm, he later explains, by practicing those virtues 

which we find in God himself: 

"Since our desire is to attain to immortal life in the future we ought even now 
to conform ourselves in some measure to that future life, establishing our hearts 
in the strength of God and striving with all our might to fix on him all hope, 
all trust, all stability of purpose, so as to become like to him, who remains 
always firm and unmoved in himself."-^ 

Now it remains to apply this teaching to ourselves in the light of our Consti- 
tutions. The first and probably the most important thing to note is the need to see 
our Constitutions as a spiritual way. And a spiritual way is a mode of relationship, 


a dynamic of growth and deepening in the relationship between God the Creator and 
his creature, between Father and child, between Lover and beloved. It is a way of 
coming to that perfection of charity which is a harmony of all the virtues and so 
of knowing God by likeness to him. Our Rule should be seen also as an extension 
of the Word of God, the mirror into which we gaze to see the image of our true 
selves. Our observances are the particular monastic way of putting on the likeness 
of Christ. This implies ongoing conversion and transformation, effected by and 
through living these very observances which are, in a sense, sacramental s. They 
are outward signs and actions pointing to transcendent spiritual realities, 
and ultimately to that one all embracing reality of union with, likeness to 

We begin by fixing the eyes of our heart on the goal, as Cassian teaches 
us in his first Conference. Looking at the observances from the point of 
view of their goal and interrelatedness will keep us from putting them in 
isolated compartments, distorting them, or over emphasizing one or another. 
The goal is presented to us in the first number of Chapter one of our Constitutions: 
"As we are reminded by the Rule, the first reason for which we are 

gathered together is that we may dwell together in unity and have one 

mind and one heart in God. Reaching beyond the limits of the monastery, 

this unity achieves its fullness in communion with the Order and the whole 

Church of Christ. 

"The unanimity of our life, rooted in the love of God, should give 

an example to all of that reconciliation in Christ which our brethren 

also proclaim by word" (Const. #2 SI, Sll). 
What depth and breadth such a statement presents to us. We are reminded not 
only of the description of the early Christian community in Acts chapters 2 and 
4, but also of the doctrine in the Rules of Basil and Augustine. This unanimity to whi 
we were called from the beginning, marred and distorted by sin, has been restored 
in Christ and applied to us to the extent we share in that process of recon- 
ciliation. The observances detailed from that opening number onward, particu- 
larly in the first section of the Constitutions, give us the program of this 
reconciliation within ourselves first and then among ourselves and with God. 
Monastic ascesis through the basic observances coming down to us from a long 
monastic tradition rooted in Scripture, is our Dominican way of restoration 
to the divine image individually and as a group. In our profession formula 
we promise obedience to God, to Mary, to Dominic, to the Master of the Order, 
and to our prioress and her successors according to the Constitutions. That 
all embracing obedience is the renunciation of oneself by which one enters into a 
whole process of conversion by a new mode of life in docility to Christ in Dominic's 
spirit. St. Paul interprets it this way: 

"What you have done is put aside your old self with its past deeds and 

put on a new man, one who grows in knowledge as he is formed anew in the 

image of his Creator" (Col. 3:9-10). 
This is a favorite text of the monastic Fathers describing the conversion and 
transformation of the person into the image of God, a transformation which 
implies concomitant growth in experiential knowledge. The goal of that con- 
version is that all one's powers of body and mind are gathered together and 
operate in unison from the center of one's being where we come to say with 
St. Paul: "The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me" (Gal. 2:20). In 
this center, variously called heart, spirit, substance of the soul, ground of 
one's being we are basically a capacity for God in St. Augustine's terminology. 
A modern writer puts it this way: 

"The spirit is, within man, a permanent substantial invitation to a change, 

to a supernatural ization, that will permit created man to partake of his 

Creator's uncreated life." H* 
The object of the monastic life is to answer that invitation. Our Constitutions 
describe this thrust later on in #80, paragraph 4, reminiscent of Basil's emphasis on 
the importance of recollection: 


"The whole of the nuns' life is harmoniously directed toward the continual 
remembrance of God." 
This statement, coming after the detailing of our observances and at the begin- 
ning of the section on prayer, is instructive. Inner harmony and integrity were 
important to the Fathers. We are being told, in effect, that as a result of living 
the observances all the aspects of our being are harmoniously, that is, in proper 
order within us directed to a continual remembrance of God. This 'remembrance' 
as the Fathers saw it, is not a mere thought, recollection, but rather, the direc- 
tion of our whole being ceaselessly toward God, so that the latent or disordered 
law within us becomes an unimpeded, unified, ceaseless surge of love, and the 
image once more reflects its Creator. Cassian has his own way of expressing this 
harmonious inner directedness: 

"The gain from fasting will not balance the loss from anger, nor is the 
profit from reading so great as the harm which results from despising a 
brother. Those things which are of secondary importance, such as fastings, 
vigils, withdrawal from the world, meditation on Scripture, we ought to 
practice with a view to our main object, i.e., purity of heart, which is 
charity." (Conf. 1:7)5" 
This also is the goal of obedience, understood in its deepest and broadest 
sense, that obedience by which, as our Constitutions tell us in #24 "a person 
consecrates herself wholly to God, and whose acts approach more closely to the end 
of our profession, which is the perfection of charity." 

What Cassian is telling us, and what our Constitutions are telling us here is 
that there are certain means within the monastic life which must always be kept in 
proper order and seen in relation to the goal. #40, paragraph 2, as it will be 
inserted into the finalized version of our Constitutions, describe these means for 
us in their proper order: 

"All the elements that constitute Dominican life and supply the arrange- 
ment of its community discipline come under the heading regular observance. 
Amongst these elements stand out common life, the celebration of the liturgy, 
and private prayer, the observance of the vows, the study of sacred truth, 
in the faithful fulfillment of which we are helped by cloister, silence, 
the habit, work and penitential practices." 
What we need to see now is how these various observances are directed toward the 
needs of the human person seeking conversion and transformation in Christ on the 
levels of her composite being. 

According to monastic tradition our search for God engages our entire being: 
body, soul, spirit, as St. Paul gives us the trilogy in his first Letter to the 
Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 23, in an ongoing movement toward God. Monasticism 
is a mode of spiritual growth more than a state of life. Our Constitutions, in 
Section II, chapter 1 on formation, containing echoes from St. Benedict's Rule, 
describes it as a continuous development in "a school of charity whose teacher is 
Christ" (#118, Sill). As baptized and consecrated women we have entered into an 
ever deepening relationship with God in Christ, who, as the Word of God, purifies 
and transforms us at every level of our being so that the body with its emotions 
and passions is docile to and in harmony with reason and will, and the activities 
of reason and will are united at the center point of our being in attentive re- 
ceptivity to the breathing of the Holy Spirit who works in us most effectively at 
a subconscious level. Our monastic life is so organized that the observances 
correspond with the three levels of our being in order to purify and integrate 
each with the others, 6 

Jordan refers to the traditional idea of asceticism as directed to the various 
levels of the human person in his first letter to Diana: 

"There are in man, as you know, two elements, body and soul; and the body is 
forever seeking to satisfy its needs in the realm of material things lest it die 
of hunger: but the soul is more important than the body: do not, then,... be less 
concerned for the soul, but on the contrary send it forth sometimes to seek its 
food in the land of the spirit. . .that food bought not with silver or gold but 
with loving desire. . .Your spirit must die unless it is fed with heavenly honey." 7 
Jordan seems to assume here that, though man is composed specifically of body and 
soul, the spirit is the point of the soul where the human person is open to God 
by loving desire, the point where the Spirit of God operates and unifies the whole being, 

, -40- 

In # 29, paragraph 2 of the Constitutions . in the article on 
chastity there is reference to this same inner harmony to be acquired by asceticism: 
"By the practice of chastity we gradually attain to a more effective 
purification of heart, freedom of spirit and fervor of charity, and because 
of a more perfect control of body and spirit and a more complete personal 
integrity we can devote ourselves with greater enrgy and serenity more 
fruitfully to God." 

The first dimension of the trilogy corresponds to our life style in general 
and includes all the elements of observance within Section I, Chapter 1 of our 
Constitutions: Poverty, chastity, obedience seen in relation to common life 
and fraternal relations and including the regular chapter, enclosure, silence, 
ascetical practices such as fasting and vigils, hospitality with Dominican 
apostolic overtones, and we might add, all the ceremonial bodily gestures so 
characteristic of our way of life as signs of spiritual realities. The one 
element not mentioned in this chapter is work, which is treated in a chapter by 
itself. The living of these observances is the domain of the moral virtues, or 
we may speak of it as 'keeping the Word 1 . We are trained by these observances 
in the right use of our bodies, of our external senses of sight, hearing, taste 
especially,, of food, sleep, material goods by the discipline of the vows, silence, 
work, fasting and vigils. The enclosure itself is the atmosphere in which our 
moral life. is gradually rectified. 

The second dimension is concerned with our rational faculties, our thinking 
and willing, which must be rectified by constantly hearing or being attentive to 
the Word in reading, study, psalmody and private prayer as they shape our whole 
mentality, values, outlook. It is not a matter of acquiring speculative knowledge 
but spiritual knowledge which is experiential and is closely related to the 
living of observances. Cassian says: 

"It is an impossibility for an impure mind to gain the gift of spiritual 

knowledge give yourself over assiduously or rather continuously, to 

sacred reading, until continual meditation fill your heart, and fashions 
you so to speak after its own likeness" (Conf. 14:10). 8 
These two dimensions, that of keeping the Word by observance and hearing the 
Word in reading and prayer, operate interchangeably, the moral life is brought 
under the domain of the rational faculties by truth and love, and the theological 
virtues come into play. 

The third dimension is that in which the experiential knowledge and love 
for which one has labored in the active life of virtue come together in a 
single movement embracing one's whole being, including one's human activities, 
rendering it God like through the gifts of the Holy Spirit culminating in wisdom 
and charity. All of this is normally transmitted through the sacramental life. 

This, then, is the proximate goal which Cassian calls purity of heart, 
St. Benedict describes as the final stage of humility, Augustine and Basil speak of 
as the one mind and one heart of charity. As Dominicans I think we might call 
this goal 'Truth', a living truth, a dynamic quality of one's whole being 
formed in the likeness of Him who said: "I am the Truth", and who told us that 
the 'truth will set us free' from slavery to sin and to a false self. It 
implies a deep self knowledge in the light of God's presence and our fraternal 
interaction, all of which is the fruit of our observance, study and prayer used 
in docility to God's grace. Just a parenthesis here on enclosure as specific to us as n 

All the ancient monastics realized that such a conversion of life is not 
achieved except in a special rarefied atmosphere for which reason they fled 
to the desert. The desert is the atmosphere of separation, silence, solitude, 
emptiness, lack of distraction, nevertheless experienced within a community 
group. In such an atmosphere of physical privation the human person is 
forced to face herself in truth, stripped of illusions, and laid wide open to 
herself and, to a great extent, to her community as well - unless she manages 
to find compensations which distract her and so hinder the real work of her life. 


Such is our enclosure, including silence, solitude and common life where we 
cannot escape looking into that mirror which is at once the Word of God, Jesus 
Christ, and our true self in his image. Nothing except a profound faith in the 
love of God for us can sustain us here as we move ever more deeply into the 
desert and to a closer encounter with the God whose divine fire both purifies 
and enlightens. Our renunciations, which facilitate the practice of virtue, 
must go ever deeper until all the layers of our falsity have been shed and the 
image of God alone stands revealed. As Jordan writes to the nuns of St. Agnes: 
"by an inner process of refining, tribulation makes the soul itself more 
pure, so that it is more on its guard against the manifold daily wiles of 
the enemy... it produces patience, it tests and proves the mind, it gives 
understanding to those whom it tries." (Letter 32, p. 11 3)^ 

We have discussed the objective factors concerning the make up of the human 
person and the elements, mainly the observances which form the framework of monastic 
consecration. But if we are to view our Dominican monastic life as a process 
of inner growth we must talk a little about the person who lives these observances: 
the person as affected by her own temperament, natural gifts, age, cultural back- 
ground, the community of persons of which she is a member and whose shaping 
influence is both conscious and unconscious, and above all and in all, her degree 
of openness to the work of the Holy Spirit. When we look at all of these conditioning 
and interacting factors as they are experienced from day to day with almost in- 
finite variations, we realize that this inner growth which involves knowledge of 
God and knowledge of self requires a guiding principle. That guiding principle 
is prudence, or as the desert fathers called it, discretion or discernemnt of spirits. 
This is a point of capital importance in Cassian's teaching. After his first 
Conference devoted to the goal of the monastic life, and before describing the 
means through renunciation and the spiritual combat, he devotes his entire second 
Conference to discretion which he describes as the capacity to discern one's motives 
and abilities in relation to one's goal and to act neither by excess nor defect but 
with moderation. The methods of early monastic discretion still form the 
guiding principle of spiritual growth and Jordan surely repeats Cassian's 
doctrine when he says: 

"You will fight with prudence if you set out to subdue your carnal nature not 
precipitately but little by little, advancing by measured steps in the way of 
the virtues. . .Only the love of God knows neither measure nor moderation, And 
that love is nourished not by the afflicting of the flesh but by holy desires 
and loving contemplation and through the cherishing of that sisterly love where- 
by each of you loves the others as herself ." !°(Letter 10, p. 79) 
How should we apply the wisdom of early monastic discretion to our life today? 
In the recent past a legalistic mentality prevailed and exterior observance 
was almost the exclusive norm. We have been shifting now, since Vatican II, to an 
emphasis on inner attitudes and on the values of the Gospel as a whole. We 

7hl ] i Z nLl h ^ 3 ba l anCe I s u eeded between the ob J e ctive observances themselves and 
the inner disposition of the person, her own motives, abilities, attractions and 

S^k^^ nt N h ither *ft Ti n ° r ^ ° ther S ^° uld be over%" hasi'zed,^ t each 
must work with Jie other. The Rule and Constitutions are, after all onlv a 

d teL n ^°obev^ a 0r R S ? St ' B ^ dict ^ ViSl ° ned hiS Rule ' So « ?rSt 1 «?S? f 
o ^ h 9 n U • dS r dS and being in danger of an unconscious complacency 
deeoer 1p!p1% ,^ H USinQ theS ! n0rmS a l s P rin 9 bo <^s into wider vistas and 
SinnftlLf ° rdlng aS edCh ? ne 1S drawn b * 9race. I think there is an un- 
ite lI2 L t^V ]\ commumt y life > especially enclosed communities, to see 
thic nl k absolute standard and then to make comparisons between persons on 
bv what w* elf' either criticizing others for doing less or setting our standards 
winter w GrS . d0ing * Communit y lif e is meant to be a support in our 
view na nf J nnI ney ',!; 0t d petition. It demands mutual respect and trust" a 
g ve to no olh^l^V^ 3S ^ geS ° f God ' each given a s ? ecial "Sntlty 
?hat ima^a^c^i^ ^h^dSj^S^^h*^?"^ ° f ° UP ^ t0 aCtUa11 " 


Each person, then, requires a different balance between work, prayer, 
reading, recreation and outside contacts, food and sleep, in order to maintain 
psychological equilibrium and to grow spiritually. Here is where discernment and 
discretion come into play on the individual level, in consultation with superior 
and community. We must always be asking ourselves how we can best use our Domini- 
can monastic observance to advance towards our goal of purity of heart, or charity, 
through progressive renunciation. Do we more and more have a taste for simplicity 
and hiddenness? Do we dispose ourselves to meet the Lord in the desert of empti- 
ness, weakness, insecurity as this burning encounter with him teaches us, as he 
taught St. Catherine, that he IS and we are not? Do we rejoice in humiliation as 
a source of self knowledge? The Word of God is keener than any double edged sword 
and it penetrates deep within us. External observance for its 
own sake is useless; it has value only as a means to total transformation which is 
union with God in knowledge and love. Article 67 on penance describes it as bearing 
'the death of Jesus in body and soul' to reach the 'glory of the resurrection.' 
The price is surrender to the working of the Holy Spirit whose action is most 
often unpredictable. He may even at particular moments in our life shake us 
loose from the very observances we cling to as props and assurances of our 
righteousness in order that we may see them as signposts leading to the deeper 
inner reality they signify and prepare for, and to enter into that deep obedience 
by which we 'overcome ourselves in our heart', that center of our being open to 
God where interior liberty is exercised. (Const. #24, SI I ) It is here we come to 
know that faith, hope and love make far greater demands on us than material poverty, 
fasting, vigils and the like. 

We must consider the person not only according to her physical and psycho- 
logical makeup at a given moment but also as she progresses from one natural age level 
to another. We refer more often now to a formation which takes place in stages 
and is a continuous development, as Article #118, SII explains it. But do we 
still think too often of this development as concerned only with the novices and 
their growing ability to understand and take part in the observances of the mon- 
astic life? We surely all recognize that our inner spiritual life is a lifelong 
process of growth in union with God, but do we look at this in relation to our 
attitude towards observances? Cassian's explanation of the three degrees of 
renunciation may shed some light here. He conceives of them as a progress 
beginning with renunciation of material goods to that of vices and passions 
and finally reaching that of all created reality which is predominantly the work 
of the Holy Spirit. If grace builds on or transforms nature then, broadly speak- 
ing, these renunciations would proceed according to physical age, keeping in mind 
that they interpenetrate and are never exclusive of one another and that the Holy 
Spirit breathes as he wills, when and how he wills. When we are young and physically 
strong bodily asceticism and the corporal and material aspects of observance, such 
as fasting, vigils and external regularity would predominate. During middle age 
when our physical strength begins to wane but our intellectual powers are still 
strong we would be more concerned with study and the practice of virtue. As we 
become "senior citizens" the fruits of our physical austerity and moral and intel- 
lectual activity would produce a unified and deep orientation within the center of 
our being expressing itself in a simple direction of the heart towards God and 
a falling away of physical and intellectual activity. More and more I think we 
witness around us a final purification where the work of God takes place beyond 
the conscious level in what we see in extreme old age. I think we can learn a great 
deal from the poverty of old age which increasingly surrounds us when one's grasp 
on reality begins to weaken and there are frightening lapses of memory and reasoning 
power. accompanied by physical helplessness, inactivity, the loss of sight and hearing. 
One needs to be well schooled in the theological virtues to bear this final work of 
God's love. But my point is that at each of the enumerated age or grace levels 
there would be different shades of expression of observance which, perhaps, our 
communal discernment must take more into consideration so that progressive formation 
will not be halted or leveled off to a totally common denominator. For example: 
can an entire community of professed religious profit at all times from retreat 


conferences, courses in theology, study programs, communal seasonal penances and 
physical austerities, and the like? This is certainly not to deny the value of such 
communal projects nor to indicate that the ill and the elderly have not always been 
dispensed from observances they are unable to participate in. I think it is more a 
matter of outlook, of placing more conscious emphasis on the dynamic within our life 
and the inner values and proximate spiritual goals we seek. Then as we grow older 
we will not view our inability to sustain full external regular observance as a 
deprivation or failure in some way, but as a deepening and an opening out which our 
earlier external fidelity has prepared us for. Our elderly nuns will not feel, as it 
were, "useless" or on the outskirts of community life but will be at its heart and vital 
center. The regular chapter is the time of communal discernment when we seek the 
will of God for our community together. While external fidelity to observance is 
the norm and can never be set aside, our mutual discernment must concern the inner 
values, the particular spiritual needs and gifts of each in relation to the group, 
and the directions in which God wants to lead us in our united spiritual growth 
towards oneness of mind and heart, which includes but is far more than the acknow- 
ledgement of external faults against the Rule and Constitutions. 

This brings up one last important point. The use of discernment and constant 
vigilance over our motives, values, real needs in our daily activity in relation 
to our goat can be very demanding psychically in an enclosed, relatively undis- 
tracted atmosphere like our monasteries. So while we exercise this self analysis 
from day to day what I think we need to keep in mind is that the emphasis in 
Dominican spirituality is God centered and Christ centered; it is on the primacy 
of grace in the work of transformation. Even during our discernment our gaze is 
fixed on God. An abiding realization of God's love poured out on us from moment 
to moment produces a certain optimism, confidence and joy. Far from diminishing 
our personal efforts, this realization enlarges the heart and gives new strength 
to our efforts and ensures that they are not egotistic wilfulness but responses 
of love to the love of God on whom the gaze of the heart is fixed. Then our 
failures call out for his mercy in true compunction and peace of heart not 
sterile guilt feelings motivated by pride and leading to depression and discour- 
agement. Jordan was wery strong on this point in writing to the nuns of St. Agnes: 
"Be in all things confident and gay""(Letter 29) "Fixing your hearts on 
the Lord by whose unfailing help we can make light of prosperity and be 
fearless in the face of adversity"'^Letter 30) 
In passages far too numerous to mention Jordan stresses Christ centeredness and a 
relationship of love. Our Constitutions, too, in article six, speak of the joy of 
our Father Dominic in which his" daughters ought to share. And article 41 on enclo- 
sure speaks clearly of the God centeredness we need: 

"This hidden life opens their minds to the breadth, the height and depths 
of God's love who sent his Son so that the whole world would be saved." 

In conclusion, our Father Dominic, following in the footsteps of the ancient 
monastic fathers and legislators, conceived of religious consecration as a way of 
life in which, through the basic traditional observances, the total person is 
gradually rectified and reintegrated within herself, made one mind and one heart 
in God with her community, so that through the resulting purity of heart the 
image of the glorified Christ will be revealed in both person and community. And 
what is that image- except the law written within the heart now completely enlightened 
and vivified by the Holy Spirit crying ceaselessly within it, 'Abba, Father'. 




Quotations from Scripture are all taken from the New American Bible 
(c) Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C., 1970 
(New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co.) 

Quotations from the Constitutions are all taken from the Book of the 
Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of Preachers , 1971 edition in its 
translation by the Promoterate of the Province of St. Joseph approved for 
use by the Order. 

1. Origen. On Prayer . Translation and Introduction by Rowan A. Greer. 
Classics of Western Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1979) p. 104 (XI 1 : 2 ) 

2. Gerald Vann, O.P.. To Heaven with Diana . A study of Jordan of Saxony and 
Diana d'Andalo with a translation of the Letters of Jordan. (New York: 
Pantheon Books, Inc. 1960) Letter 8, p. 73 

3. Ibid . Letter 46, p. 134 

4. Claude Tresmontant. A Study of Hebrew Thought . Translated by Michael 
Francis Gibson. (New York: Desclee Co., 1960) p. 107 

5. John Cassian. Institutes and Conferences . The Nicene and Post Nicene 
Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. XI (Grand Rapids: 
Eerdmans, 1978) p. 297 

6. In the exposition which follows I am indebted to Fr. Augustine Roberts 
for his excellent article in Cistercian Studies , Vol. 10, 1975: 3 and 4 
entitled "Spiritual Methods in Benedictine Life" which I have modified and 
adapted to express our Dominican charism and form of life. 

7. Vann, O.P., op_. cit . , Letter 1, p. 64 

8. Cassian, op_. cit . , p. 440 

9. Vann, O.P., op_. cit . , Letter 32, p. 113 

10. Ibid ., Letter 10, p. 79 

11. Ibid ,, Letter 29, p. 109 

12. Ibid., Letter 30, p. Ill 


Rule of St. Augustine (Book of the Constitutions of the Nuns of the Order of 
Preachers, 1930. Translation) 

St. Basil. The Long Rules : X and IL Massachusetts: St. Paul Editions, 1950 

Rule of St. Benedict : 1980 . (Timothy Fry, O.S.B., Ed.) Collegeville: 
Liturgical Press, 1981 


Marguerite Aron. Sjt. Dominic's Successor . London: Blackfriars Publications, 1955 

Louis Bouyer. The Spirituality of the New Testament and the Fathers . New York: 
Desclee and Co., Inc. 1963 

John Cassian. Institutes and Conferences . The Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of 
the Christian Church, Second Series, Vol. XI. Grand Rapids: William Eerdmans 
Publishing Co. , 1978 

St. Catherine of Siena. The Dialogues Translated by Suzanne Noffke, O.P. 
New York: Paulist Press, "T980 

Early Documents of the Dominican Sisters , Vol.1. Summit, New Jersey: Dominican 
Nuns, 1969 

Amedee Hallier. The Monastic Theology of Aelred of Rievaulx . Cistercian Studies 
Series, No. 2. Shannon, Ireland: Cistercian Publications, 1969 

Jean Leclercq, Francois Vandenbroucke, Louis Bouyer. The Spirituality of the 
Middle Ages . New York: Desclee Co., Inc., 1968 

George Maloney, S.J. Man the Icon of God . New Mexico: Dove Publications, 1973 

Origen. On Prayer . Translation and Introduction by Rowan A. Greer. Classics of 
Western Spirituality. New York: Paulist Press, 1979 

Conrad Pepler. The Three Degrees . St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1957 

Augustine Roberts. "Spiritual Methods in Benedictine Life". Cistercian Studies , 
Vol. 10, 1975:3 and 4 

John Edward Sullivan, O.P. The Image of God . Iowa: Priory Press, 1963 

The Summa of St . Thomas . New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947 

Claude Tresmontant. A Study of Hebrew Thought . New York: Desclee Co., 1960 

Simon Tugwell, O.P. (Ed.). The Early Dominicans . Classics of Western Spirituality. 
New York: Paulist Press, 1982 

Gerald Vann, O.P. To Heaven with Diana! A Study of Jordan of Saxony and Diana 
d'Andalo with a translation of the Letters of Jordan. New York: Pantheon Books, 
Inc., 1960 

M.-H. Vicaire. St. Dominic and His Times . Translated by Kathleen Pond. 
New York: McGraw Hill Book Co., 1964 

Adelbert deVogue. "To Study the Early Monks". Monastic Studies #12, 1976 

The Works of William of St. Thierry, Vol. 4. The Golden Epistle . Translated by 
Thomas Berkeley. Massachusetts: Cistercian Publications, 1971 

Sacramentary and Lectionary of the Roman Rite 

Documents of Vatican Council II 



(Outline and Source Texts) 

INTRODUCTION: Personal Experience of Monastic Consecration: Conformity of Wills 

Ps. 40:7-9; Heb. 10:5-10; Const. #23 SI, #24 Sll 


A. Key Text in Constitutions: #40 SI. 

1. Monastic Sources: Rules of Basil, Augustine, Benedict const. #1 siv, #2 si, 

Institutes and Conferences of Cassian #3 si 

2. Dominic's Adaptation: Rule of St. Sixtus 

B. Letters of Jordan of Saxony to Diana and Nuns of St. Agnes in Bologna: 1222 - 1236* 

1. Seeking, Desiring God; Attention Fixed on God (Letters 1,18,23,27,43,46) 

2. Christ Centered; Nuptial Ima-gery (Letters 7, 11,20,26, 30, 31, 33,45) 

3. Gazing on Christ: Contemplation, Lectio Divina, (Letters 20,23,31,45,50) 

4. Discretion/Moderation (Letters 10, 16,17,19,22, 24, 27, 32, 33, 49) 

5. Practice of Virtues: Humility, Patience, Obedience, Charity, etc, 

(Letters 7,9,24,32,33,45,49) 

6. Renunciation and Spiritual Combat Leading to Purity of Heart 

(Letters 8,10,13,17,19,23,32,33,40,50) 

7. Kingdom of God; City (Letters 8, 9, 19, 40, 50) ' 

8. Fasting, Vigils, Gift of Tears, Compunction (Letters 13,24,27,33) 

C. Constitutions of 1930 and Present Constitutions I 


A. Summary of Doctrine ■ 

B. Sources and Development 

1. Scripture (Gen. 1:26-27; Letters of St. Paul) 

2. Fathers of the Church: Origen, Basil (Long Rules Q.2), Cassian (conf. 1 and 11:6-1 

3. Medieval Monastics and Theologians I 

a. Cistercians and Victorines 

b. Dominicans: St. Thomas ( st 1 q. 93); St. Catherine ( Dialogue and Prayers) 
Jordan (Letters 8,20) 

C. Modern Revival 

1. Vatican Council II (Gaudium Et spes) 


2. Pope John Paul II ( Redemptor Hominis ; Dominicae Cenae ) ■ 

3. Liturgical Texts : Revised Lectionary and Sacramentary I 

4. Modern Theologians 


A. Rule as Spirituality 

1. Goal: Unanimity within oneself, within community, with God 

(Cassian: Conf. 1; Const. #2 SI, 11) j 

2. Means: Re-formation in Divine Image through Monastic Observances (Cassian: conf.3| 

a. Observances: Common life, Vows, Enclosure, Silence, Cell, Habit, Penance, 

Regular Chapter (const. #40 sll, #109) 

b. Link with Prayer, Reading, Study (cassian: Inst. 2 and 3; conf. 9 and 10; 

Const* #80 SIV, #103) 

B. Restoration of the Divine Image through Unification/Transformation of Whole Person 
in Christ: Correspondence of Observances to Human Person - Body/Soul /Spirit 

(I Thess. 5:23; Cassian: Conf. 3 and 4:18-21; Const. #1 SIV, #2, #29 Sll) 

(over for diagram) 

* (Letter numbers correspond with those in G. Vann: To Heaven With Diana - cf. bibliography) 


(Integration of bodily 
dimension: moral 

Work (manual or in- 
Ascetical Practices: 

vigils, fasting, etc. 
External Simplicity: 

dress, furnishings 
Common Life: fraternal 

jreljtions j^hapter^ 

Const. #2-79,110-117 
Cassian: Inst. 1,4 
Basil: Q. 7-33,47-52 
Ben. Ch. 5-6,22-57 
Aug. Ch. 4-11 
St. Sixtus #2-34 

(Growing dominion of 
Word over rational 
faculties: theological 

Common : 











Cassian:Conf . 9-10 
Basil: Q. 4-6, 37 
Ben. Ch. 8-20 
Aug . Ch . 3 
St. Sixtus #35-37 

(Integration of 2 lower 
levels of person in center 
of being under divine influ 
ence: gifts of Holy Spirit) 


Self Knowledge 

Obedience as inner attitude 
of receptivity 

Inner Ascesis: thoughts, 
imagination, passions 

Interior Silence: "Hesychia 

Charity/ Joy: God's initi- 
ating Love 

Purity of Heart as total 

inner Truth 
Sacramental Life 

! Const. #24Slll7#29Sll,#80SI 
#101, #108 
Cassian: Conf. 10,11,14 
Basil: Q.l and 2 
Ben. Ch. 4,7,73 
Aug. Ch. 1,2,12 
St. Sixtus #1 

C. Dispositions of Person 

in Relation to Observance: Monastic Discretion 
Original meaning (cassian: conf. 2) 
Jordan's interpretation (cf. i b 4 of this outline) 
Interpreting Observance Today (const. #5, #25si, #51) 


a. Subjective factors modifying observance 

1) Culture; physical, psychological make up of person (const. #29sii, #125siv,#130 

2) Age levels within group (const. #8sn, #12, #H8si,ii,iii) 

b. Communal Discernment: Regular Chapter (const. #74) 
Monastic Discretion and Dominican Spirit (const. #41) 




Boniface Ramsey, O.P. 

This brief essay, rewritten from the talk that I gave at the 
Farmington assembly on June 6th (which was very kindly transcribed 
by Sister Maria Christine of Menlo Park), is intended to be a non- 
exhaustive reflection on the different aspects of the first chapter 
of the Constitutions of the Nuns, i.e., the part that deals with the 
regular consecrated life. 

The first such aspect is that of community. There is a long 
tradition, going back more than sixteen centuries to Basil the Great 
in the seventh of his so-called Longer Rules , on the superiority of 
the communal to the solitary life. Basil says that a community can 
do things that an individual cannot; that an individual's limited 
talents can be widely shared in a community; and that a person in 
community can exercise virtues that a solitary cannot — e.g., long- 
suffering, patience, compasssion, humility and service. In the 
presence of the others with whom one lives, Basil seems to imply, 
there is the continual presence of Christ. This indeed is the most 
profound meaning of the community, namely that in each of its members 
we are always face to face with some aspect of Christ, whether as 
well or sick, joyful or sorrowful. In this respect no one is greater 
or lesser than anyone else. Love of Christ in himself, in his members 
in the community, and ultimately in his members throughout the world 
(for which universal love the love of the community ought to prepare 
us) is the end or goal of community life. We might characterize 
this simply as discipleship, and it is the fundamental reason why 
we are in religious community. 

While the goal of any given community is perfect discipleship, 
nobody has the right to expect such perfection as an ever-present 
reality. We have no right to a perfect community, both because we 
are imperfect ourselves and therefore cannot expect others to be 
what we are not,, and because, in God's plan, it is precisely imper- 
fection — our own and others' — that spurs us on to perfection. 

Finally, to touch briefly on the idea that love for the community 
ought to fructify into a still more universal love, it behooves to say 
that detachment from "the world" and its concerns is a kind of aberra- 
tion. No concern of the world, whether it be good or evil, is alien 
to us, for we ourselves are microcosms even if we live an enclosed 
life, and the community is in many respects an apt symbol of the world 
in all its variety. The community itself has failed if for some rea- 
son it makes it possible for us or even (God forbid!) encourages us to 
neglect the world, and it thereby puts its members in danger of neglect- 
ing one another and of living only for themselves. How exactly a con- 
cern for the world is to be actualized is something for each monastery 
to determine. 

Obedience is the second aspect of religious consecration to which 
this chapter of the Constitutions devotes itself. This vow is not to 
be practiced solely for functional reasons (e.g., because a community 
could not be run without it), but for a christocentric reason (i.e., 
in imitation of Christ's obedience, which brought him to the cross) 


and for an anthropocentric reason (i.e., to rectify our own funda- 
mental disobedience, which, with pride, is the primordial sin). 
As in Christ's own case, obedience means conformity to the cross. 
Hence it is almost always painful, since the cross is by definition 
something imposed from without, whether by a person or by circum- 
stances, which we would rather not have. Inasmuch as it has the 
will of God as its object, which will is expressed in every aspect 
of reality and not merely in the commands of a superior, obedience 
can be practiced at every moment. And if this is true, then the 
superior is also bound to obey at every moment — both as one who 
serves her community at specified times and as one who herself must 
conform to the reality of the cross, which is inescapable. 

Celibacy, for its part, is an attachment to the person of Christ. 
This attachment includes body, emotions and intellect. Consequently, 
it implies the cleaving of the whole person of the lover to the whole 
person of the Beloved, not simply the cleaving of the soul or the in- 
tellect of one person to the soul or intellect of the other, which 
would not be a comprehensive love. And if the body, emotions and 
intellect are to be available to Christ, they cannot at will be "shut 
off" for others. Hence the celibate is capable of real friendships 
with others and, indeed, of falling in love with others and of being 
emotionally torn; not for nothing has celibacy occasionally been re- 
ferred to since the end of the third century as a martyrdom. Thus 
it must be stressed that celibacy is not the fear of the sexual, a 
disdain for the beautiful, or the inability to form deep relationships 
with others. 

The third of the vows, poverty, has a christocentric reason of 
its own, namely the love of and the imitation of the poor Christ. 
The implication here is that if Christ is himself poor, in himself 
and in his members, then the religious can be no other. 

It may be true that poverty is the least fundamental of the 
vows, in that obedience conforms us to the divine will in all its 
aspects and celibacy commits us to the whole person of Christ, 
whereas poverty stresses a very particular thing. Nonetheless it 
should be noted that, even so, poverty is no more dispensable than 
are the other two vows, for it is a psychological/spiritual necessity 
for the religious person to be like the Christ whom she loves, and 
that Christ is poor. Poverty is, moreover, explicitly at the his- 
torical foundations of monastic life in a way that the other two vows 
are not. For this we need only look, to Athanasius' Life of Anthony 
2-3, which tells us of Anthony's desire to follow Christ in poverty 
as his first "monastic" act. The ancient monastic movements in gen- 
eral were stamped by the attempt to recover the poverty and community 
of goods that we read of in the first chapters of the Acts of the 
Apostles. Finally, we can surely say that, of the three vows, poverty 
has the most comprehensible and hence the greatest witness value. 

It seems obvious that religious communities should be as poor as 
they expect their members to be. This means that communities as well 
as individuals must eschew the accumulation of property and the culti- 
vation of the wealthy and the powerful, regardless of whatever good 


intentions there may be in this regard. Also on the community level, 
the beautif ication or "improvement" of community property should be 
undertaken with caution, even when this is ostensibly "for the greater 
glory of God," as would be the case in the refurbishing of the church 
of the choir, for example. The danger here is that some sort of self- 
aggrandizement can masquerade under the guise of "improvement." The 
same caution, for different reasons, should be exercised with respect 
to the procurement of labor-saving devices for use in the community. 

The fifth aspect of the regular consecrated life that the first 
chapter of the Constitutions touches on is enclosure. Unlike commu- 
nity, which is a less restrictive concept because it ultimately em- 
braces the whole world, enclosure suggests a relatively small and 
particular group of people to whom one is committed and with whom one 
lives constantly in a certain closeness. It means, too, that others 
are excluded from this life unless they are accepted by the enclosed 
community. The tradition holds that, despite the rigors of being 
set apart, the enclosure is not an escape from reality but rather an 
opportunity for intensifying one's relationship with God and even 
with the very world that is excluded from the enclosure. Thus enclo- 
sure implies segregation from other persons and from the world at 
large but not unconcern about others or about the world. 

For the enclosure to be sacred, instead of being merely elitist 
or obscure, what occurs within the enclosure must be sacred. Enclo- 
sure presumably makes it possible for religious to do things in an 
explicitly sacred way, which in turn fosters a heightened sensitivity 
to the sacred — i.e., to the presence of the divine — in every re- 
spect. Such would probably not be possible outside of the security 
that enclosure provides. It is precisely the knowledge that the en- 
closure is a locus of sacred activity, along with its impenetrability, 
which contributes to a monastic "mystique" among lay people, who can- 
not see what is going on "behind the walls" and who have no idea that, 
in fact, everything there is not perfectly sacred. A problem arises 
when the enclosed religious are themselves taken by this mystique and 
come to believe that the enclosure in and of itself makes holy. 

Silence, which is next spoken of in the Constitutions, is often 
mistakenly viewed exclusively in terms of func tionalism, as is true 
of so many other things in religious life. That is, it is seen as the 
necessary precondition for others or for oneself to pray, sleep, 
study or accomplish some end that demands the strictest attention. 
This suggests, however, that there is no need to observe silence when 
it does not serve as such a precondition. Silence rather is part of 
the characteristically monastic bearing that bespeaks a serious yet 
gentle approach to others and to all of reality. Noise, on the other 
hand, is associated with levity and even violence. A still profound- 
er meaning of silence comes from its relationship to the divine: in 
some ancient Christian literature, notably Ignatius of Antioch (cf. 
Magnesians 8), the Father is identified with silence, out of which 
is born the Word. The significance of this for monastic religious, 
particularly the Dominicans, ought to be obvious. 



The cell, like the enclosure, is not a place of escape — i 
this case from the rest of the community. The cell, more than any- 
thing else, symbolizes the small still point within the person where 
God is found, the infinitesimal central point of ever smaller con- 
centric circles. In this we are reminded especially of a tradition 
of the ancient Syrian desert, whose monks sought to restrict them- 
selves to tiny and remote places. The cell suggests that the God at 
that small still point within us is sufficient for us. 

Two traditions come into conflict with respect to food. One of 
these holds that eating is in and of itself a quasi-sacred activity. 
Almost every culture has believed this, with the possible exception 
of the contemporary American one. Needless to say, the connection 
with the eucharist is obvious here: all meals somehow are types of 
the eucharist, which is the sacred meal par excellence , and the 
eucharist in turn looks forward to the heavenly banquet. According 
to this view, nothing so symbolizes bliss as does a meal shared with 
others. The second tradition, on the other hand, sees eating as 
purely functional. Some proponents of this view, among whom one 
finds monastic authors, see it, indeed, as a shameful function. One 
can read, for example, in the first chapter of the fifth-century 
Lausiac History by Palladius, of a monk who wept from embarrassment 
on account of his need to eat. Numbers 60-61 of the Constitutions 
seem to opt for the first tradition, which is at once more human and 
more Christian. 

The former tradition implies a corollary. If a meal has a quasi- 
sacred character, it demands as much attention and preparation as any- 
thing else of similar significance. Moreover, the careful preparation 
of food, no matter how simple and inexpensive it may be, is a sign of 
love on the part of those who prepare it and on the part of the whole 
community in general, just as the careful maintenance of the house is 
a sign of love. Need it be added, finally, that food which is loving- 
ly presented makes an important contribution to the morale of the 

There follows in the Constitutions a brief section on the habit. 
For most relatively knowledgeable people, the habit perhaps more than 
anything else identifies the religious and immediately sets her in a 
particular historical context. In this regard I am made to think of 
Father Dominique Dubarle, O.P., who was at Saint-Jacques in Paris when 
I was living there from 1974 to 1976. Father Dubarle was an older man 
with a very distinguished career and rather liberal views who almost 
always wore his habit (even in the street, which is forbidden under 
French law), despite the fact that this was not the thing to do at 
Saint-Jacques in those days. Once when I saw him leaving the priory 
in his habit just as I was going in, I asked him why he dressed like 
that when he could as easily have worn a suit. He replied that he 
wanted to assume Dominican history — both its triumphs and its trage- 
dies — upon himself in a way that would be visible to others; he 
wanted to avow publicly his sharing the responsibility for whatever 
Dominicans might have done in the course of their history, and in this 
respect he mentioned particularly the Inquisition, which is an event 


with which we are ineluctably associated. This impressed me profound- 
ly, and since then I have looked at the habit in that light — not 
only as something that symbolizes religious consecration but also as 
something that bears the burden of history, which I willingly put on 
myself. For the habit is virtually unchanged since the days of Domi- 
nic himself and the first nuns of Prouille. 

Half of the section on works of penance is devoted to fasting 
and abstinence. Here it would be well to recall an ancient Christian 
tradition, mentioned for the first time in the mid-second-century 
Shepherd of Hermas (similitude 2), to the effect that what one does 
not eat oneself by reason of fasting should be given to the poor 
rather than stored up for some future occasion. Indeed, in Christian 
antiquity, fasting was practiced as much for the sake of the poor as 
it was for one's own spiritual profit, and fasting that did not take 
the poor into consideration was held to be worthless. This idea 
links up with what I mentioned earlier, namely that enclosed relig- 
ious are not cut off from the world but are responsible for it. 
Fasting of this sort acknowledges this responsibility. 

The final aspect of religious consecration mentioned in the first 
part of the Constitutions has to do with regular chapter. The chapter 
talk that is spoken of here offers an opportunity for leadership, di- 
rection and encouragement on the part of the prioress that nothing 
else does. Perhaps, in fact, this should be considered the prioress' 
most important ordinary duty. When performing it, moreover, she not 
only encourages, guides, consoles and reproves, she also sets her- 
self before the community in a postion of vulnerability, which is at 
once humbling and glorious. 

By way of conclusion and perhaps synthesis, I want to say that 
all of the things that this first chapter of the Constitutions deals 
with exist for the sake of the contemplative life, and for a precise- 
ly Dominican contemplative life. Contemplation is an end in itself 
to the extent that it is, by Christian definition, union with Christ 
and with God; nothing can be more important than this, nor can there 
be any further goal than this. Yet inasmuch as it is Dominican, it 
mysteriously subserves the preaching apostolate and is directed toward 
the success of this ministry; this is its outward thrust. This preach- 
ing in turn, carried on by the brethren, is about nothing else than 
Jesus Christ and him crucified. Perhaps, I venture to say, the nuns 
live more closely to this mystery, at least in an explicit way, than do 
their brethren. Their familiarity with this mystery, combined with their 
love for the brethren and their concern for the work of the brethren, 
ought to place them in a position to mediate something of their know- 
ledge to the brethren, however hiddenly, so that their preaching may 
catch fire. For why do poverty and enclosure and fasting and chapter 
and all the other monastic practices exist if not for this? 




Liam Walsh, O.P. 

The outline included with this presentation will be a useful road map to 
indicate its general directions. Some of the points mentioned will be explored 
in some detail, while others will be passed over more quickly. It will be useful 
to have a look at the map before we start on our journey. Five points are in- 
cluded. The first point is a kind of preface and it simply states that the pattern 
in which we must consider study is the Trinitarian pattern. The second point 
takes up the premise and explores the way in which study is the following of Christ, 
the Word made flesh and second Person of the Trinity, by examining the different 
ways in which study has been incorporated into the evangelical life as it developed in the 
history of the Church. As a result, we can situate the particular way in which 
Dominic chose to make study part of the charism that he was living and announcing, 
and we can see from that kind of setting the way in which study is for us the 
following of Christ. The third point takes up the question of the Holy Spirit 
and explores the way in which study can be for us an experience of the Spirit. 
Then, in point number four, we will move on to the actual practice of study. 
Points two and three are more theoretical; they look more at the institution 
of study within the institutions of religious life that exist in the Church. 
Point number four will be an attempt to look at the actual practice of study and 
to present a kind of asceticism of study and the way in which it is an imitation 
of Christ in the Spirit. The final point is a sort of mysticism of study. It will 
deal with the way in which the practice of study in Christ and the Spirit can 
bring us to that contemplative leap to the Father which we call mysticism. 

I shall state the premise very briefly and without much explanation since 
your faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is sufficiently profound. Experi- 
ence of God is given to us through Christ in the Spirit. Singly, and in their 
interaction together, they bring us to the Father. The experience of Christ is 
given to us mostly at what we call the objective pole of our human experience. 
Christ is the Word made flesh who is given to us in words and events which are 
outside of ourselves. He is given also in the people who, being changed by the 
words and events, transmit them to us in the Church. The experience of the Spirit 
is given mostly within our individual self, and also within that sort of collective 
self which is the community in which we share. The Spirit is given to us as a 
force, a love, an exhilaration, an inspiration within our own interiority, within 
our own self at the subjective pole of our experience. These two poles of our 
experience by which we encounter the Word and the Spirit interact: we can only 
recognize Jesus in the words and events of the Gospel; we can only recognize 
him as Lord and Son of God in the Spirit. On the other hand, we can only be sure 
that the spirit which is moving within us is the Spirit of God when we measure 
that against the objective Gospel of Christ. And so the Spirit, and Christ giving 
us the Spirit, bring us together to that mysterious oneness with God as we reach 
the Father. 

If study, then, is to be an experience of God it must be for us a response 
to the Word made flesh given to us as Gospel truth and a response , at the same 
time, to the Spirit within us as grace. In the chapter of your Constitutions 
which deals with study that Trinitarian ground work is strongly stated; and, for 
me, it is the most fundamental mystery of study to be interiorized in these new 
Constitutions. In reading through them one sees that very clearly in the emphasis 
given to the word Verb urn , and in the Word/ Spirit interaction which is mentioned in 
number 101 and especially in number 108. The Trinitarian source of our under- 
standing of the mystery of study in our life is stressed there. 

We shall go on to the second point which is stated in the summary in this way: 


Dominican study is a special way of following Christ as Word made flesh. There 
are many ways of following Christ that have emerged in the life of his followers. 
One of them is the Dominican way. Within that way, study is a particular aspect 
of our following of Christ as Word made flesh. Here is a little definition of 
study (Dominicans always like to begin with definitions!): study is a disciplined 
application of the mind to reality with a view to understanding and living the 
truth of it. Think about that. It is not a perfect definition, but it will do. 
One puts one's mind to work and what the mind works on is reality. One does that 
in a disciplined way, not just in any way; and one does it so that one can: 
come to understand reality in order that one will live in reality. 

There is an invitation to this way of using our minds conveyed very funda- 
mentally in our belief in the Word made flesh. Word ( Logos in the Greek) is already 
found in the literature of the Old Testament, and then in the New Testament, where 
St. John describes Jesus as the Word made flesh. 'Word' means many things. It means 
the Person of Jesus: the Word made flesh. Word means many things. It means 
intelligibility, understandability, rationality. To say that there is Word in 
God is to say that God is somehow intelligible, communicable, get-at-able by the 
use of our minds. To say that all things were made through the Word is to say 
that the Word in the whole cosmos is somehow intelligible and knowable. To say 
that the Word was made flesh is to say that the human mind is capable of being 
one with the Word of God, that the human mind can and really must understand God. 

Historians of civilization - Christian ones - have claimed that this 
belief that there is Word in God and that God reveals himself in Word is at 
the heart of the attention given in Christian civilization to ideas, education, 
research and planning, to a degree that is really quite unique in human history. 
The Christian churches have always been the staunch defenders of the use of 
the mind, not "just for human progress, but also as a grounding in and a com- 
plement to faith, especially in times when people have lost their nerve about 
the value of knowledge and reasoning. The Church has always insisted, not 
only on the value, but also on the necessity of thinking about God, not just 
for the sake of more knowledge but so that faith would be kept in touch with 
the reality of God. This tradition of the Church is, of course, grounded on 
the practice of Jesus himself. 

Jesus had a human mind which is just like ours. This is part of our belief in the 
Incarnation. He used that human mind basically in the same way that we do. He 
accepted, I believe, the limitations of the human mind while at the same time 
developing it in a way that was suited to his dignity as the Son of God and to 
his role as universal Savior. But the confidence which the Church has in the use 
of the mind is the consequence of our belief in the way in which Jesus used his 
human mind. He used that human mind to know, but above all, to teach. Jesus 
was a teacher. "Rabbi" is one of the titles which is given clearly and strongly 
to him in the Scriptures. Matthew said: "Learn of me" (Matt. 11:27) . The Greek 
word which he uses there really means: "Join my school; take me as your teacher." 
He gathered disciples, and the biblical notion of disciple includes that element 
in the relationship with Jesus. He expounded the Scriptures; he debated; he 
argued with the Scribes, Pharisees and Doctors; he told his disciples to teach 
others because the Spirit would teach them all things. He repeated the first 
commandment of the Old Testament: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy 
whole heart and thy whole soul and with all thy strength" (Deut. 6:5). 
But he added to that, in the words attributed to him in Sts. Matthew and Mark, 
the word mind : "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with 
thy whole soul and with all thy mind" (Matt. 22: 37; Mark 12:30)which is not in the 
Old Testament. This is just to emphasize Jesus as thinker and teacher. 


Very soon in the development of the Christian tradition, however, there came 
a strain which was negative about learning. I do not think you will find it at- 
tributed to Jesus anywhere except, perhaps, in that passage in Matthew's Gospel 
where he gives thanks to the Father for revealing these things to the little ones, 
not to the wise and understanding (cf. Matt. 11: 25). That is the nearest he gets 
to putting down the intelligentia. But Paul, typically, has no restraint about it, 
and you will remember in his First Letter to the Corinthians how he scorns the use 
of philosophy and people who use their minds as philosophers. He uses that phrase 
which has come into spiritual literature: "Knowledge puffeth up" (I Cor. 8:1). 
It makes people proud and incapable of hearing the Word of God. That strain, 
beginning there, continues in the tradition of the faith. Paul himself, of course, 
is very much a teacher and certainly uses his mind. St. Peter apparently thought 
that he used it too much when he made that comment about the difficult and abstruse 
things that Brother Paul had written in his Letters (cf. 2 Pet.3:16)So, whatever 
Paul had said about philosophy, he certainly used his mind and was very much a 
teacher, and he took for granted the Jewish rabbinical tradition of teaching. What 
he really had in mind in putting down philosophy and philosophers was the fact that 
at that time learning, study, was mostly in the hands of pagans. What the book said 
and the teachers taught was wound up with the worship of false gods. So it was not 
so much philosophy and teaching that he was getting at as the content of these 
pursuits in the world that he knew. 

This suspicion of learning, however, returned to life in a strong way at the 
beginning of monasticism, because that was the time when the empire was beginning to 
make its peace with the Church, and the Church was beginning to adopt the ways of 
the world as the world became more Christian. This led to the great, radical pro- 
test of the monks who, in the face of this compromise with the world and its own, 
simply said: "We must renounce everything for Christ." Then they went off into the 
desert. One of the things that 4 had to be renounced was learning, and this theme of 
renunciation of learning for the sake of Christ was a strong one for those first monks 
who initiated monastic life. Father Festugiere, O.P. has analyzed this in his 
books on Egyptian monasticism. So this strain is present in the Christian tradition, 
this belief that for the total following of Christ there must be a radical renun- 
ciation of everything that is of the world including worldly learning, and every- 
thing that has to do with learning: books, schools and study. As monasticism began 
to develop, others came to recognize that they could not follow Christ without 
knowing the Scriptures and also without knowing their own monastic tradition. 
As copies of the Scriptures became more abundant and books came to be written about 
Christian tradition and the Fathers, especially books about the monastic life itself, 
the use of learning became accepted as part of the monastic life. 

The various forms of study associated with learning to read became part of the 
following of Christ, and lectio developed as an exercise of monasticism. The 
lectio divina, the reading of the Scriptures and of the monastic and patristic tra- 
ditions, required for its practice the copying of books and the learning of grammar; 
and that became a practical part of monastic life. The kind of learning thus adopted 
as part of monastic life was learning which was undertaken as a way towards contem- 
plation, towards prayer, towards the knowledge of God and the things of heaven. 
Anything that went beyond that particular aim still met, in monasticism, the kind 
of call to renunciation which the very first monks followed in a total and unre- 
served way. Monastic literature has many criticisms of the monks who pursue learn- 
ing for any other reason than the search for God. 

There is another strain in the Christian tradition, because not all Christians 
were able to practice, or called to practice the kind of renunciation of learning 
which developed in the monastic tradition, either from the early monks or even the 
more balanced form out of which the tradition of lectio developed. This was true 
for a lot of reasons. For example, the bishops of the Church needed to be learned 


men by reason of administration in the broad sense, but especially on order to 
develop and protect the doctrine of the faith and to keep the Church united in the 
common faith. As Christian culture began to develop, Christians themselves began 
to ask questions about the meaning of the events and words of Christ and about 
future trends and how the Gospel should be preached in new situations and new cul- 
tures. There was, of course, the reaction of some people to that which was some- 
thing like: "Don't be asking those silly questions. Let us just read the Scrip- 
tures and repeat the formulae of the Fathers and that will be fine." But the only 
thing that can stop the human mind, even the minds of Christians, from asking ques- 
tions is death or the parousia. So the questions went on and the teachers of the 
faith had to find answers for the sake of the preaching of the Gospel and, above 
all, for the sake of maintaining communion within the Church. Anything less than a 
satisfactory answer to the questions people were raising would divide the Church 
and, in fact, did so, because the unsatisfactory answers were what came to be called 
heresies. They led people to split into sectarian groups. Therefore, the respon- 
sibility of the teachers of the faith was to find answers to these questions which 
would unite the Church in fidelity to the tradition, but also in the forward thrust 
which the Gospel must have if it is to be the leaven which transforms human history. 

A tradition of theological learning thus developed in the Church, especially 
among the bishops, but also among theologians who came to support the bishops and 
to carry forward the tradition of study. This was seen as a way of following Christ, 
as a call within the Church to follow him. The monks were inevitably caught 
up in this doctrinal development and many of them even became bishops and so had 
the responsibility for doctrine. Generally speaking, it appears that the monastic 
role in questions of doctrine tended to be one of great fidelity to the tradition, 
therefore conservative in the good sense of the term. It was sensitive to the 
whole tradition and made sure that the Church kept listening to it in order that 
it might remain that kind of function within the development" of doctrine rather 
than become the more creative and daring one of exploring new questions. As 
monks, it was not their business particularly to be involved in this development 
of doctrine. Their study, precisely as monks, remained centered on the require- 
ments of contemplative life. 

It is this kind of tradition which had developed in the Church when Dominic 
was called to bring a new way of following Christ into the life of the Church. 
What inspired him to integrate study into the charism that he was discovering and 
sharing with his followers was the need of preaching. This was what determined 
everything. He and his followers were called to participate in the bishops' 
ministry of preaching and in their responsibility for teaching in the Church, and 
to do that in a way which would deal with all the questions that people were asking 
and with all of the divisive answers which were being proposed. They were called 
to do this in a way which would reach out to the new cultures which were facing 
experiences which had never before been encountered by the Gospel and which would 
require new forms of Christian life and new forms of doctrine and they were called 
to do this in a way which would build up that missionary life of the Church as an 
ever new communion of faith. This was to be the new vocation of preachers and it 
was for this that Dominic recognized that they needed to undertake theological 
studies. Such studies included not only the Scriptures and tradition, though 
these were primary, but also the new contemporary questions which were being pro- 
posed in the universities and the schools of the time. This was necessary in order 
to face honestly the questions which were making the future of the Church, to 
prevent a mere repetition of the past. 

The mission of the followers of Dominic was to be one of ecclesial preaching^ 
and by that very fact it was to be prophetic, because the Church is missionary in 
its nature. The study required for this kind of preaching could not be simply 
monastic study and learning. Lectio , and the study which surrounds it, is 
measured by the needs of prayer. The study required by the mission of Dominic 


was measured by the needs of mission and doctrine and the unity of the Church: which 
was something beyond merely defining the needs of contemplative union with God. 
It was to be a following of Christ in his prophetic and missionary role, and in 
the radical questioning which Jesus did of all the traditions of his own time. 
He questioned these inherited traditions in order to open up a new revelation 
of God. 

Study was to be one of the elements which would give a Christ-character to 
the act of preaching, along with the whole life style Dominic developed in the 
evangelical following of Christ through poverty, chastity and obedience. One of 
the great difficulties which he was trying to answer was that preaching had lost 
its evangelical radicalness. Preachers were repeating old phrases without really 
listening to the kind of questions that were being asked by the people. They were 
neither thinking nor teaching; and among the things which would bring back the 
real force of teaching to preaching was study, along with a questioning of what 
the tradition really meant and what it was saying in the new situation which the 
preachers had to face in the new age of the Church. That was the 'why' and 'how' 
of the introduction of study into the Dominican charism as a way of following 

At the same time it is clear that Dominican study, from the very beginning, 
drew heavily on monastic study and lectio divina and somehow included these and 
continued to be challenged by them. The preacher that Dominic wanted to be himself 
and the kind that he wanted to give to the Church was to be one who renounced 
everything for Christ; not just teachers whose minds were Christ-like but teachers 
whose whole life was radically Christ-like. In the beginning monks and nuns were 
the prototypes of that total renunciation of all things for Christ and total con- 
secration to the heavenly life: and they always will be. They made that renunci- 
ation - and still do - for no other reason than to be Christ-like, and to imitate 
and anticipate in this world the life of resurrection. They chose to live a way 
of life which is beyond all compromise with things of this world. The monks and 
the nuns were the ones who worked out the ascetical features of this 'heavenly' way 
of life which eventually came to be known as poverty, chastity and obedience, and 
what I always like to call the fourth evangelical counsel: constant prayer leading 
to contemplation. These are the essential elements of the consecrated life which 
slowly evolved and continued to be represented in newer forms of monasticism. Of 
course, the monks and the nuns also developed certain support systems which became 
specific to monastic life and which do not belong to the central core of the evan- 
gelical life , but belong only to monastic life 1 

Dominic, wanting to give to the Church men and women who would be totally 
Christ-like in their mission of preaching, drew from monastic tradition those 
essential elements of the consecrated life which are the vows and contemplative 
prayer. Among the other monastic elements, he took those which suited and served 
the kind of mission which his brothers and sisters were to have in the world, 
each according to their particular way of sharing in that mission , and he left aside 
others which would not be accommodated to that mission. It was in that sense, I 
believe, that he took, of necessity, the practice of lectio divina because this 
belongs, not to anything which is specifically monastic, but to that central core 
of consecrated life which involved constant prayer leading to contemplation. 
Contemplation, tradition tells us, is not possible without lectio divina in some form. 
We must look at it in this more deductive way because it is not easy to establish 
from the documents that Dominic incorporated monastic lectio into his new form 
of consecrated life. For example, in the first Constitutions of the brethren 
there is a gap where one would expect lectio to be dealt with following the pattern 
of earlier constitutions such as those of Premontre. 

Simon Tugwell, in his book entitled Early Dominicans puts the Constitutions of 


Premontre and the Dominican Constitutions side by side and one can see the gap 
there, since there is nothing about lectio in the primitive Constitutions of the 
friars. I do not think, that fact means that it was not in the mind of Dominic. 
In fact, I think that since he took from the monastic tradition the central core of 
consecrated life, that is, the contemplative life, lectio would necessarily have been in- 
cluded. The reason why it does not appear in the Constitutions of the friars is that 
it was understood that the new element in the Dominican following of Christ, which 
is study, would include the values of lectio . Study was to be different from mon- 
astic lectio . It was to be fully technical and to meet the needs of doctrine in 
order to equip men to preach. It was to be the study of God ordained to the sal- 
vation of souls. One does find in the earlier Dominican texts, in Humbert for ex- 
ample, very strong condemnations of study which is not directed to this end,, and of all 
of the parallel classical learning, and the pride and worldliness to which it leads.. 
These are repeated in early Dominican texts. Therefore, there was a measure, and 
the measure was God: God, not contemplated now, but God preached according to the 
needs of the Church. It is clear from that kind of concentration that study was 
basically about God, and to that extent would have included the whole tradition 
and practice of lectio . It would have been, as Dominic's conversation was, with 
God and about God. 

The analysis which I have been giving concerning the traditions have referred 
more explicitly to the friars, although not exclusively. This brings me to the 
question of the place which Dominic would have given to study in the life of the nuns, 
and how that might have been related to lectio . The nuns whom Dominic associated 
with the friars in the mission of preaching were to be contemplative religious. To 
that extent, and of necessity, they were to practice lectio . Because they were not 
actively engaged in the ministry of preaching, some of the observances of the friars 
which were directly connected with preaching were not part of their life. Therefore, 
some of the dispensations from monastic observances which Dominic gave to the preach- 
ing friars were not imposed on the nuns. The preaching friars were given special 
observances connected with preaching. The most difficult and ascetical of them 
(and I say this with only half my tongue in my cheek) is the asceticism of traveling 
about the world, and the asceticism of a poverty which is mendicant and involves 
begging. These were special observances of the life of the preaching friars who 
were engaged in the active ministry. These were not necessary for the nuns , and that 
fact conditions the way in which the monastic observances were dealt with, integrated 
and managed in the life of the nuns. 

In this context, then, the question comes up about whether Dominic gave the 
observance of study to the nuns at all, and if so, how that related to the obser- 
vance of lectio . As far as I can see, the historical question is quite difficult. 
I notice in the Constitutions that there is a claim that Dominic, somehow or other, 
gave this observance to the nuns. The evidence is not so clear. My own belief is 
that it was not a major issue. It seems to me that as the charism unfolded in the 
life of the Order, and as the relations between the nuns and the friars came to be 
understood more clearly and without the social and cultural restrictions of the 
Middle Ages which determined in certain ways what men expected of women, it became 
very clear that the observance of study was as much a part of the life of the nuns 
as it was of the friars. At the time that the Order was founded, however, the 
issue would not have assumed importance since some of the nuns were educated women 
and would have continued to study quite normally; while others were uneducated as, 
by analogy, were the lay brothers, and would not have been expected to study. 

I think that study is part of your life today as it is part of the life of the 
friars in relation to preaching, and that the way to understand that is the way of 
relationship. Obviously in the life of the nuns study is not directed towards 
actual ministerial preaching, but is rather related to the preachers. Your life is 
defined, in one of its features, as a relationship to your brothers, as our life is 


similarly defined as a relationship to you; and it would be incomplete without 
that. The working out of that relationship involves a sharing in each others' 
concerns and an ability to hold conversation with each other. I believe that if 
the nuns are to relate to their brothers who are actively engaged in the ministry 
of preaching, in a way that Dominic wanted that to happen, they need to understand 
what is going on in the minds of their brothers, what their concerns are when they 
preach. They need to know the kind of questions with which they have to deal and 
the kind of answers which they have to offer in their preaching. I believe that 
before the nuns can carry their preaching brethren in their hearts they have to 
carry them also in their minds. There is an exchange in that kind of conversation 
which is part of the richness of the Dominican charism: an exchange of learning, 
of teaching, of mutual criticism which is part of the richness of the mission of 
preaching which Dominic wanted to bring to the Church. Therefore, I would see the 
relationship of study to preaching among the nuns in those terms of relationship, 
and I would see in this the most fundamental reason for having study within the 
life of the nuns. 

Study, however, has a direct and immediate value for the nuns in relation to 
their own contemplative life, just as it has for the brethren. One of the effects 
of it is to influence the way in which lectio is done. The monastic tradition was 
very strict about the kind of study which would nourish lectio . The Dominican 
tradition of study is much broader because of its concern with the reality of 
preaching, and that broader concern is certainly going to affect the way in which 
the nuns come back to the same texts which they will be using in lectio . For 
example, your reading of the Scriptures must be affected by the exegetical study 
which you do. You must never be satisifed with short cuts to prayer which may come 
from a pious but quite unscholarly interpretation of the text. If you know what the 
scholarly interpretation is, you could not very well put the knowledge you have 
from that study of a text aside and say: "Well, I'll forget that and just pray 
over this." That, at least, is how it seems to me. I think study would rule out 
any kind of fundamentalism in your understanding of the Scriptures. The inter- 
action between study and lectio would also save you from any kind of rationalism; 
that is, interpreting texts in a purely critical or literal way which is not the 
product of study in itself but of a wrong kind of study. Because of study, and 
also as a result of the motivation that comes from lectio , you need a special sen- 
sitivity to the spiritual sense of the text, to the typology which is within the 
total Scriptures, to the moral sense and to the fuller sense, schooled in this 
always by patristic literature. The more spiritual and more immediately prayerful 
reading of the Scriptures would be constantly nourished and strengthened by the 
kind of study that you would be doing. 

The effect of study on lectio would also give you a taste for the classics 
of the Christian tradition, more than for secondary expressions of it, which you 
would develop in study. The special skills that are needed to read the Fathers, 
for example, and especially the more classical works of the Fathers, would be a 
fruit of study affecting the practice of lectio . But, above all, study would 
give you, in this Dominican sense, a concern for teaching, for the importance of 
truthfulness and meaning in what you read. It would also give you a sensitivity 
to the doctrinal process and to the full richness of the tradition which would 
overcome any tendency to accept only one strand of the tradition. By reason 
of study you would be more aware of the fact that the tradition is much richer 
than any one generation can develop. You would have a sensitivity to error, an 
awareness of inadequate answers to questions, and of deviations which might not 
seem to have much consequence at the beginning, but which ultimately could be- 
come divisive in the Church. Study would also bring to your practice of lectio 
a certain critical openness to the prophetic side of the tradition. 

The monastic lectio , Dom Jean Leclercq tells us, is predominantly conserv- 


ative in the good sense of that term. It makes sure that the whole richness of 
the tradition is constantly present in the mind of the Church. The preaching tra- 
dition of study and of lectio will have a special attentiveness to future directions 
and to what the tradition is saving about the future and about the missionary growth 
of the Church in the unfolding of revelation which develops as the life of the 
Church moves forward and outward into new civilizations. These are some of the ways 
in which lectio would be affected by the fact that you are studying, not just in a 
way that is immediately directed to monastic type lectio , but in a way which is 
sensitive to the ministry of preaching in the Church. 

The third point in the outline concerns study as an experience of the Holy 
Spirit. There is no following of Christ which is not in the Holy Spirit. The 
tradition of study tends to be much more comfortable with the Word than with the 
Spirit. Indeed, there is a feeling that students are poor candidates for any 
kind of charismatic experience and that study spoils one for the spontaneousness 
and freedom that seems to be the mark of the Spirit. I would just remind you 
that the Dominican tradition came out of a movement which had a strong charismatic 
quality. (I use that term in the broad sense here.) There was an enthusiasm for 
that power of the Spirit which was transforming the Church and which was expressed 
in so many ways in the Middle Ages. Saint Dominic was certainly influenced by it, 
and the kind of study that he gave us could not be a cold, arid, intellectual, 
rational type of approach. Certainlv study is a modifying influence on that fervor 
of the Spirit, and on some of the wild ideas and practices which were current in 
Saint Dominic's time. But it remains something which must be fired by the Holy 
Spirit. When one analyzes study and the human process that is at work in real study, 
one finds that it is not just the consideration of objective ideas, texts and judge- 
ments. There is a self awareness, a reliance on inspiration; and above all a depen- 
dence on the power of love in order to know, in the practice of study. That was 
very clear to Saint Thomas. We Dominicans are not very good at recognizing the 
role of affectivity in the process of knowledge, but it is certainly an integral 
part of the practice of true study. Indeed, study undertaken in this way can 
become an experience of God's Spirit within us, of his gifts and inspirations and, 
above all, of the reality of love within us which comes into play in all serious 
study. It is important for us, therefore, to find this presence of the Spirit in 
the practice of study and to cultivate it actively because of the temptation there 
is to be too Word centered in our study. 

This leads into the subject of the asceticism of study. The points I will 
elaborate are listed in number four in the outline. The first one is a reflection 
on what some contemporary theology tells us about the mind of Christ. There is a 
way of thinking about Christ which makes him someone who knew everything but who 
never really had to think or struggle with ideas. I draw your attention to the 
fact that this is not necessarily the best theology, and that there is a way of 
understanding the mind of Christ which brings him closer to us as we ourselves 
wrestle with ideas and make discoveries. As the Letter to the Hebrews tells us: 
"He learned obedience in the school of suffering" (Heb. 5:8). Our practice of 
study, which is so much a learning of obedience to the truth and which carries 
so much suffering, is a real imitation of him. If study is not an imitation of 
Christ, a real one, it will lose that whole Christocentric power. 

The second point concerns the discipline of study as a taking up of the cross. 
I want here to make a distinction between monastic study and Dominican study by 
saying that the purpose of study for us is not contemplation only; it is also 
doctrine and preaching. This means that when we sit down to study we must follow 
the demands of the material which we want to study. If one wants to do lectio 
on the Book of Deuteronomy one can say: "Well, I have forty minutes to do lectio" , 
and then read, and perhaps after two verses stop and pray; and that is good and 
right. But if one wants to study the Book of Deuteronomy, then one must read 


this book and that book and that introduction, and so on. And one usually must go 
through these without stopping for prayer, even if one feels so disposed. The 
discipline comes from the subject to be studied, and one cannot say that one "is 
studying in a disciplined way, the way which is the following of Christ, unless 
one accepts the discipline of the material. The word discipline , in fact, comes 
from the context of study. A discipline in study is all that is required to say 
that one truly knows a particular area of reality. Therefore, the discipline of 
study is not dictated by a horarium, or by the immediate need of prayer, but by 
the material. That is a much more difficult discipline, I assure you. So this 
is the way in which study becomes a following of Christ. 

The next point I want to discuss concerns the way in which study forms us into 
a school. Jesus said, 'Join my school'. There are marvelous things to be experi- 
enced in a school: the relationships which come from studying together and from 
teaching one another; and all of them are very rich, human relationships. They 
are Christ centered relationships in the Spirit because they are the exercise of 
different spiritual gifts. We need to see whatever structure we establish for 
the practice of study as a working out of spiritual gifts, with the whole theology 
of spiritual gifts which Saint Paul gives us coming into play. Our tradition has 
some sad patches in it showing the way in which teachers have become power figures, 
people with prestige who dominated other people, the people who have been made to 
suffer because they were not intellectuals. That, of course, is a total perversion 
of the understanding of study as a following of Christ in the Spirit. So, whatever 
may be the way we organize it, or however we structure our relationships, we need 
a sharing in the spiritual gifts where different people are teachers in different 
areas, and where everyone is a learner. 

There is one special feature of Dominican life which is important because of 
the fact that as an Order we are a kind of school. It is the separation we have 
made between authority and teaching. The first Constitutions of the friars stated 
that there cannot be a Dominican community without a prior and a teacher. A com- 
munity cannot be set up without these two officials. (I think there must also be 
a bursar.) All of these were intended to be different people. In the monastic 
tradition the abbot was the great teacher, and he taught with authority. The 
spiritual masters whom he would use to justify his teachings were the Fathers and 
the great monastic authors. In the Middle Ages a distinction was made between 
authorities and masters ( Magistri ) . When a theologian quoted Augustine or Athanasius, 
he was quoting an authority; and that ended the debate. If Augustine said it there 
were to be no further questions. But, if a master was quoted, one listened to what 
he had to say and to his reasons for it; and if his reasons were good then they were 
accepted. But if they were not good then they were not accepted. One gave him no 
authority beyond the weight of his explanation. Teaching in the Dominican tradition 
is the activity of a master, not an act of authority. That affects our way of 
relating to one another. We are people who are prepared to teach and to be taught 
together. We expect reasons from one another and are prepared to give reasons for 
what we put forward. We do not like to be talked down to, and to be told: 'It is 
so because I say so.' We like explanations and we are reluctant to give anyone 
authority unless he is prepared to use his head and let us use ours. Our priors, 
and prioresses, have their authority, of course, on other grounds. But our appre- 
ciation of teaching and learning affects our relationship with them too. We like 
them to explain their decisions and to give reasons, and we like them to listen 
to our views. Our chapters institutionalize this quality of our relationships. 
They give us a chance to study and to teach one another. The importance we give 
to study and to the use of our minds also affects the way we deal with strong 
characters within our communities. We are rather reluctant to let ourselves be 
carried away by strong, charismatic personalities. We want people to be able to 
teach us and to influence us by reasons. That is an important part of our com- 


munity control over dominant personalities. In all this we are not just following 
a cult of reasonableness. We are following Christ, becoming disciples in his 
school, in the peculiar way set up for us by "Master" Dominic. 

The final point I want to make concerns our relationship with the Church and with 
the magisterium within the Church. We share a mission which is really part of the 
magisterial mission of the Church. We do that in recognition of the authority of 
the bishops and the Pope to be the ultimate teachers and deciders of doctrine. But 
because of the mission we have, we are called to participate in that magisterium 
and to do it in a way which to some people would often seem critical. We are 
called to inform the bishops, to challenge them, about doctrine. One can do that 
in full obedience to the magisterium. This is a service which the Church expects 
of us. It is a service in which we need very much to offer support to each other. 
This is the reason why it is important that all of us should be engaged in the 
work, of theological study in some way. We have brothers, for example, who are out 
there on the frontiers of missionary theology, stretching out to new worlds, trying 
to find a way of understanding and expressing the Gospel which will draw people 
into the saving power of Christ. It is a dangerous and a painful life for them 
many times; and it is verv sad when their brothers or sisters jump to the conclu- 
sion that they are heretics. Of course, there are some who are heretics, and who 
are not doing this as a service to the Gospel. But it is really a failure to the 
commitment to the following of Christ that we have been given by Saint Dominic that 
we should, in an uninformed way, jump to that conclusion. That is another reason 
why study is part of the life of all of us, and a way of expressing our concern for 
building up the Body of Christ. It must not be a Body that is withdrawn and self- 
protected, but a Body which is missionary and outgoing and that has confidence in 
its power to bring the truth to the whole human family. 

I want also to balance what I have said about study as a carrying of the cross 
by saying that there is a lot of the cross in study, but now and then one gets the 
experience that the disciples had on the road to Emmaus. Meditate on that story 
as an illustration of what happens when people study the Scriptures. Jesus was 
teaching; he was explaining the Scriptures to them and he added something like: 
"You silly fools, you have misunderstood everything!" Then he went on and taught 
them, so that they were really using their minds. They did a whole semester's 
work in a couple of hours' walk! It was hard going but the result was that their 
hearts were burning within them. That does happen sometimes in study. There is 
in it a lot of following Christ on the cross, but there are these resurrection 
moments also. 

The last point concerns mysticism: all of our prayer must be an experience of the 
Father through Christ in the Spirit. We do not always analyze it in this way but if 
we follow the full tradition of faith and spirituality it is clear that we must ad- 
dress ourselves to each of the three Persons of the Trinity in all their distinctness 
and difference and then in their inter-relationships. The reason for this is that 
there is no such person as "God"; there is only Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One 
can pray to God, yes, but there is no Person whose personal name is God. So, assum- 
ing that prayer is a person to person conversation with God ; then it must be to Father 
Son and Holy Spirit. 

I have analyzed study as an experience of Christ and the Spirit; and it must 
be that. We must do our study in imitation of Christ, with him and in him and for 
him and through him. It must be entirely pervaded with his presence and at the same 
time be an experience of the Spirit within us. The subjective side comes into play 
in study at the point where we are listening and being moved by the Spirit. What 
turns study into prayer is when we begin to name names, when we turn to the Lord 
Jesus in that experience and call him by name, or turn inward to the Spirit and call 


the Spirit by name. This turns the experience into prayer: : naming the Person we 
are experiencing. So, assuming that we study through Christ, utterly pervaded by 
his Gospel and imitating his life in the Spirit, then study will nourish prayer. 
It will be one of the things which puts us in touch with the Persons of the Word 
and of the Spirit. 

I talked a bit about the interaction between the Word and the Spirit, how it 
is impossible to call Jesus 'Lord 1 except in the Holy Spirit. We cannot really be 
sure that the one we experience within is the Holy Spirit unless we measure whatever 
the Spirit is doing within by the Word of the Gospel. Then the point comes when 
our experience of the Son, or of the Spirit, carries us to the Father. That is 
the point where one can begin to talk about mysticism: going out of the realm of 
created experience. The Word and the Spirit are sent into the world; they are 
part of our world. The Word is made flesh and the Spirit is sent into the community 
of the Church. Therefore, our experience of them is always bound up with our own 
experience and with the world of creation. But the Father is the Godhead who is not 
sent. He is the One who sends and who is totally transcendent, totally outside of 
any created experience. In my understanding of it, mysticism is the point at which 
we are carried through the Son in the Spirit to the Father. The whole Christian 
understanding of the Person of the Son is ad Patrem: to the Father. In reflecting 
on his farewell discourse one can see that the Son's only preoccupation is to keep 
those the Father has given to him for the Father. And so if we really are in touch 
with the Lord Jesus, then the effect of that will be to carry us to the Father. 
The same is true of the Spirit. The Spirit is the one who makes us cry 'Abba, 
Father' (cf. Rom. 8:15). So the experience of study, as the experience of the Son 
and the Spirit, would be caught up in that mystical movement towards the Father. 
What happens is that study begins to bring us to the point of total renunciation of 
ideas and images. 

There is, again, in the mystical tradition of the Church a trend which seems 
to say that knowledge is somehow a barrier and a block to going out of self to God. 
It is true, but not in the sense that knowledge is valueless and that the pursuit of 
it has nothing to contribute to the mystical ascent to God. The really profound 
students have come to realize through their study that the truest ideas are the ones 
which are almost negative, the most fragile ones, those which almost disappear. 
The great metaphysical ideas are couched in the thinnest, most transparent terms. 
The word 'to be', for example, as an idea, is nothing. It is empty. And yet, that 
is the idea which gets the human mind closest to reality. To_ be; nothing else. So 
study itself brings one to the point of realizing that one must eventually say 'no' 
to knowledge, not in the sense of discounting it and putting it aside, but because 
reality is far beyond it. Saint Thomas is often quoted as saying at the end of 
his life that he realized that everything he had written was "straw", and then he 
gave himself to contemplation. People seem to deduce from this that he believed 
he had wasted his time studying. Saint Thomas was not a bit surprised to learn that 
everything was "straw". He had learned that already as a result of study itself! 
The more he studied, the more he realized the limitations of ideas; and yet, the 
more he built on these ideas. So there is a point where study, the fruits of study 
and the knowledge that comes from it, has to negate itself. That is the point where 
one reaches the most profound experience of the self emptying of Jesus and the 
overwhelming wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then one is ready to go to the Father: 
an experience which is beyond all thought and all ideas. The point is that as- 
suming that one has adopted the kind of spirituality which gives a place to study, 
one is brought to that point by study. Study is integrated into that whole process 
and by the very honesty and completeness with which it is undertaken it contributes to 
and prepares us for that final leap out of all knowledge and beyond all knowledge 
which is the mystical ascent to the Father. 


I would like to make one concluding remark. There are a number of places in 
the Constitutions which mention the value of study for contemplative nuns which 
we might add to the above. Paragraph 103 for example describes the study commended 
to the nuns which nourishes contemplation. It also mentions the obstacles which 
come from ignorance. That is a theme which could be developed: how one avoids 
the many pitfalls in one's approach to God by simply knowing something about the 
Church's faith in God and what that means, and how it helps to form our practical 
judgement in making moral decisions and decisions about the counsels with greater 
and more lucid fidelity. Then there is a very interesting point about the way 
in which study helps to bring about oneness of mind within the community. There 
is another, also, about the constancy and discipline involved in study and how it 
becomes a real form of asceticism. Finally, it is a little bit disappointing 
that the Constitutions simply say: "Not alone does it nourish contemplation...". 
But at least it is clearly stated that study does nourish contemplation. 



1. Experience of God is given to us through Christ in the Spirit, 
who, in their interaction bring us to the Father. This 
trinitarian faith pervades the presentation of study in the 
new Constitutions. 

2. Dominican study is a special way of following Christ as 
Word made flesh: 

2.1 Christian devotion to study (defined as disciplined 
application of mind to realit^ith a view to understand- 
ing and living the truth of it) is grounded on belief 
that God revealed himself as Word and on the example of 

2.2 In the christian tradition there is a negative strain 
about learning. The first monks made it one of the 

things they renounced for the sake of Christ. 

2.3 Classical monasticism took a positive stance towards 
learning, putting it at the service of and measuring it 

by the needs of lectio divina . Learning that went beyond 
those needs was to be renounced. 

2.4 Those responsible for preaching in the Church needed to 
study in the interests of administration and doctrine 

A theological study developed in the Church which had other 
objectives than those pursued by monastic theology. 

2.5 Dominic adopted study for the sake of preaching: it was 
to be the distinctive method by which the preaching„of 

his followers would become truly teaching and truly prophetic, 
and to that extent a following of Christ. 

2.6 Because his followers were to be contemplatives Dominic 
also drew on the classical tradition of lectio divina 

2.7 In the observance of the friars lectio was caught up in 
and transformed by theological study, but without losing 

its distinctive objectives. While the practice of study among 
the nuns cannot be well documented from the origins it emerges 
from the relationship and interaction between them and the 
friars in the interests of preaching. 

2.8 The monastic tradition of lectio can be incorporated more 
easily into the observances of the nuns because they are 

not engaged in active ministry. But their Dominican experience 
of study gives a distinctive quality to their lectio . 


3. Dominican study is an experience of the Holy Spirit within us: 

3.1 The Spirit and his gifts are experienced in the subjective 
side of our human activity. In the practice of study 

affectivity, intuition, creative inspiration, the unconscious 
and other non-rational forces come into play. In them study 
can become an experience of the Spirit. 

3.2 Word and Spirit interact in study as in all areas of 
christian experience. Dominican tradition is more 

comfortable with the Word and its objectivity than with the 
Spirit and subjectivity. That very fact requires us to give 
more deliberate attention to the Spirit in study. Perhaps 
the gifts of the nuns could contribute specially to this. 

4. The Dominican practice of study is an imitation of Christ 
in the Spirit : 

4.1 Christ used his human mind to discover and communicate 
the truth about himself and about the Kingdom of his 

Father. What we imitate in him when we study is something 
real, not a pretence. 

4.2 Study, because discipline, is a taking up of the cross. 
The asceticism of study comes from its own intrinsic 

requirements. These requirements are so respected in Dom- 
inican life that the asceticism of study is given priority 
over other ascetical observances. 

4.3 Study gives a special quality to our relationships with 
other people in Christ. We enter Christ's school when 

we study. Although he is the only teacher by right we can 
teach and be taught by each other according to our spiritual 
gifts. Relationships within the Dominican Family have this 
quality . 

4.4 Dominican community gives special place to relationships 
that grow out of study. It distinguishes clearly between 

the ministry of teaching and the ministry of authority. 

4.5 Study can generate conflict, as the thinking of Christ did. 
In Dominican life it is also meant to resolve conflicts: 

to mediate between ideologies (conservative/progressive); to 
discern charismatic gifts; to modify power; to bring about 
consensus iu decision making. 

4.6 Dominican study aims to build up the Body of Christ. It 
is done within the Church, with a strong sense of the 

doctrinal process. It operates in obedience to the magisterium 
of the bishops, with a sense of responsibility for the good 
exercise of that magisterium which is inherent in the original 
mission given to Dominic in the Church. 


4.7 Dominican study can also be a resurrection experience 
with Christ. 

5. Dominican study grows into contemplation: 

5.1 Prayer through Christ in the Spirit brings us to 
the Father 

5.2 Study enters into the trinitarian movement of prayer 
and gives a special quality to Dominican mysticism. 



Sister Mary Magdalen, 

In the light of the lectures of the past two days this, which 
will be the last to deal with our Dominican Monastic Identity through 
an investigation of the first part of our Constitutions, can be aptly 
introduced by a quotation from L.C.M. #109. It sums up that which 
lies at the heart of what was developed by our previous lecturers, 
and it leads us gently to the consideration of what we hope to show 
is so much a support of all the areas they have opened out to us: 

"All regular observance ... tends toward this, that the 
word of God dwell more completely in the monastery." 

The very physical atmosphere in which we dwell must be more and 

more HIS WORD dwelling in us! He has said: Ab ide . . . Rema in . . . L ive . . . 

"in me and I in you." The activity is the same as "dwell". "Dwell 
in me and I in you!" 

"...towards this", our Constitutions say, "...all regular ob- 
servance tends." This is the ministry of all regular observance. 
However, Study and Lectio Divina (together with Prayer and Liturgical 
Worship - their constant companions in the monastic scheme) bear 
DIRECTLY on the Word. How much, then, will the degree of our dedica- 
tion to them affect how completely the word of God will dwell in the 

monastery ... peimeate its atmosphere! At present this text 

(#109) closes Chapter Three of our Constitutions: "On Keeping and 
Hearing the Word of God". In the revision we are expecting, it will 
open the Chapter, thus serving - as here - to introduce everything 
else said about Lectio Divina and Study. 

In handling Chapter Three, Father Liam and I decided to divide 
the material in such a way that his lecture would place the emphasis 
on Study, mine on Lectio Divina. But precisely because we are treat- 
ing them in this way, we feel the need to stress that the two themes 
in practice are not so much distinct from, as complementary to, each 
other. The unifying reality, the orientation of both is a searching 
out, a searching into and encountering of the Word of God. We do not 
pursue "Lectio" and "Study"; we pursue the Word ! And Lectio, with 
Study as its helpmate, are means for the pursuit and the encounter. 

In other words: We must not approach either Lectio Divina or 
Study as an EXERCISE to which we devote a specified amount of time 
each day. Rather should we see in them our contribution to opening 
up the supply-source from which the Holy Spirit, the "Living Fountain" 
can water the whole of our life; even as he, the "Breath of God", be- 
comes with the Word of God the atmosphere we breathe, in which we 

"A river flowed from Eden to water the Garden, and 
from there it divided to make four streams." Gen. 2:10 

Four streams - Lectio Divina, Study, Liturgical Worship, and Private 
Prayer - water and make fruitful the whole of our life. Without 
them we dwell in a parched land. 


Before looking at Lectio directly, let us review the role of the 
Word of God in Dominican Life as a whole. It is in this setting that 
we can best appreciate the importance and irreplaceable role of Lectio 
and Study in the life of the nuns of the Order. 

Looking at Dominican Life in relation to the Word as outlined in 
the Fundamental Constitution of the Brethren, we read: 

"...the religious profession which enrolls us in the Order 

dedicates us... to God and to the whole Church in a life 
' fully engaged in proclaiming the Word of God.'" 

L.C.O. Basic Const. #3 

The dedication of our Brothers to the Word is not through an oc- 
casional activity; it is the dedication of their very life. A life 
"fully engaged": The words express totality and centrality, and a 
stability of purpose. They are completed by a statement of their ob- 
ject: a Person - "the Word of God", and an Action - "proclaiming" 
him. In the expression of this object a sense of centrality and 
stability is again communicated. 

Parallel to this text is #100 in the Constitutions of the Nuns 
of the Order. Its last sentence reads: 

"By hearing the Word of God, by its liturgical cele- 
bration and by living by it, they proclaim the Word 
of God by the example of their lives." 

In our English translation we lose some of the force of the 
original Latin text which expresses the manner of the nuns' procla- 
mation of the Word in the succinct successiveness of three Latin 
words: "audientes, celebrantes, c us t od i en t e s " . They describe the 
nuns' relationship with the word alongside our Brothers and Sisters 
in the active apostolate of our Family. The Centrality is here, 
too: The Nuns - hearing, celebrating, keeping the Word - are also 
"fully engaged" in proclaiming the "Evangelium Dei", the Good News 
of God, by the example of their lives. 

We ought to go further than looking at that sentence in /MOO as 
a general, objective description of the NUNS of the Order as a whole. 
Something of new worth and meaning comes through when we use that 
sentence as a mirror to reflect back ourselves, individually and per- 
sonally: MY life, YOUR life, is keeping, hearing, celebrating the 
Word. I apply it, as a Measuring Rod to my yesterdays - how I have 
done it; to today - how I am doing it, and also to what difference 
it will make to my tomorrows. 

Positing this centrality of the Word in our lives, we have the 
setting for the importance of Lectio Divina and Study in the monastic 
scheme as feeding and supporting the characteristic preoccupation of 
the monastic person with God in Liturgical Worship and Private Prayer. 
Because all of this is tied to our Dominican Monastic Identity I dare 
to say that, in a very real sense, for us the quality of LIFE is re- 
lated to and dependent on the quality of Lectio and Study -- in a 
monastery and in the individual nun ... taking into account, always, 
a variety of capacities, attractions and circumstances ... (The Lord 
has called us all!) 

The place I assign to it, the level and quality of my reading 
and study, determine in a significant way the rest of my life. 


When, earlier this week, we were looking at the Basic Constitu- 
tion of the Nuns, we saw in Section II another paralleling of the 
Brethren and the Nuns of the Order, and their two ministries side by 
side in the service of the Word: The Brethren are to evange 1 ize - 
their ministry is to "spread the Good News of Jesus throughout the 
world". The paragraph goes on to point out that the ministry of the 
nuns is that of a hidden support system, with its effectiveness pro- 
portionate to the nuns' seeking, pondering, calling upon the Lord. 

"It is... for the nuns to seek him in secret 
to ponder and pray..." 

The word which our English translation of the text renders as "pray" 
is the Latin verb "invocare" ... denoting a particular kind of prayer. 
That it is related here to the ministry of the brethren is an impor- 
tant nuance, even though "prayer" in its other senses is valuable 
just as well. Another point I would make here is that the notion of 
"seeking and pondering" in this number of our Constitutions can go 
beyond seeking and pondering in prayer to evoke the idea of Study and 
Lectio: seeking in Study; pondering through our Lectio Divina. 

"SEEKING" ... not the God of my own ideas, but as he has revealed 
himself in his Word. That is what I ponder upon, in order to know him 
more fully in TRUTH. Studying, Reading ... Seeking, Pondering ... I 
penetrate into his Mysteries, his Mind, his Plan for the Universe. 
And I come to understand his Ways, his Goodness. 

My Brothers and Sisters in the Dominican Family also do this; 
and filled with the joy of what their seeking and pondering have re- 
vealed to them, they go out to proclaim the word of life. - I, their 
sister, turn my contemplation of those same mysteries into a burning 
flame of zeal that prays and supports, and of love that consumes and 
immo 1 a t e s . . . 

" that the word which has come forth from the 
mouth of God may not return to him void, but may 
prosper in those things for which he sent it." 

God's purpose in uttering his Word (which our Basic Constitution 
here describes in the words of Isaiah 55:10) is accomplished in a 
unique way through the Ministry to the Word of this Fami ly to which I 
belong -- where everything leads up to, flows from, and is built 
around its engagement with the Word. 

All this is the rich background, the powerful motivation behind 
my fidelity to Lectio Divina and Study. 

I would like to round off what I have been saying with a quote 
from our Constitutions #95. Confirming our love and reverence for 
Mary, Section I describes her as our... 

"...model for meditation upon the words of 
Christ and docility in one's mission." 

Who more than Mary studied into and kept the Word of God? 

Who more than Mary celebrated it? (We celebrate with her every 
day in the Magnificat.) 

Docility in her mission is held up to us, too: her hearing and 
responding to the Word in a life so much like our own; her power in 
her h iddenne s s ! 

So much for the setting of the stage. Now we can move more 
directly into our theme of Lectio Divina... 


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I ask the question and attempt an answer because in my own read- 
ing of articles etc. on Lectio Divina I find in a number of instances 
the question raised: What may one include under the heading "Lectio 

By way of answer, I propose to explore three possibilities 


constitutes reading as "Lectio Divina" ? 


or ... Does SOMETHING MORE than subjective disposition and 
objective orientation enter in? 


that constitutes "Lectio Divina"? 

Strange as this question may seem, it is obviously implicit in 
the practical approach and the stand sometimes taken in regard to 
what constitutes Lectio Divina. To give an example of what is in- 
volved here ... 

I pick up my diocesan newspaper or the U.S. NEWS 
AND WORLD REPORT. Something I read occasions a deep inward stirring 
of my soul -- even an experience of contemplative prayer. . . . Shall 
I, may I, go on to say that this reading was Lectio Divina for me?... 

In reply, I submit the statement that it is neither accurate to 
name it Lectio Divina nor is there any reason for doing so. ... I 
have read something; the material became an occasion of actual grace 
for me, something through which I would probably say, "God spoke to 
me" . . . through which I entered into deep prayer. -- There is no 
need for me to create a ps eud o- i de n t i t y for this reading, or to cre- 
ate some "legality" for my perusing it, by inaccurately calling it 
what it is not. 

It can stand by itself; on its own identity, in its own right. 
What I need to do is to "monitor" such reading . . . using 
discernment ... weighing it against the balance of greater priorities 
... remembering always the standard we set earlier, viz, that the 
quality of our reading determines in a significant way the quality 
of our life. 

I chose newspaper reading as an obvious illustration against the 

possibility that the subjective disposition of the reader (i.e. the 

reader's experience of God) constitutes a valid claim for the reading 
to be called "Lectio Divina". -- But one could and should use the 

same logic and draw the same conclusion against labelling as Lectio 

Divina some of the other types of reading material listed above as 
being at our disposal. 


MATERIAL ITSELF that constitutes it as Lectio 

Here we are moving closer to the final distinction that we pro- 
pose to make . ... 

Within this second possibility we are dealing with reading ma- 
terial of which the deliberate underlying orientation is some aspect 
of our growth in relationship with God -- the works we familiarly 
refer to as "Spiritual Reading". 

The use of this term "Spiritual Reading" in translating our Con- 
stitutions is perhaps the reason why some confusion entered into our 
concept of Lectio Divina. But why have we come to be rather insistent 
that these words should not be employed to translate the Latin term 
Lectio Divina, except that we have a growing sense of Lectio Divina 
as being MORE than "Spiritual Reading". ... And why was the topic 


selected for our consideration at this Assembly, except that we are 
looking for a better understanding of what really constitutes "Lectio 
Divina" . 

Within the scope of this Second Possibility we have (objectively 
speaking) a higher level of reading for persons in our form of life. 
But we are also in a kind of "in-between" area. Here is reading, 
again, that can stand in its own right and boast of its own nobility, 
but to which the thesis we are pursuing justifiably refuses the title 
"Lectio Divina". 

There is little comment to be made in regard to the reading com- 
prised within this second category. It is all good in itself. More- 
over, if I like a book or article in this category, I read and can 
profit - even greatly - from it; if I find I'm not getting anything 
from it, I simply lay it aside. 

Any monitoring of my reading here is of a different sort than 
the caveat's suggested in regard to some of the reading we used to 
illustrate our First Possibility. Perhaps what we ought rather to 
monitor here is what might be distinguished as "quantity-consumption" 
vs its "growth-nourishment" value ... the care to balance the "carbo- 
hydrate" intake with "protein" sources in our spiritual reading diet. 

Now we approach the Third Possibility of an answer to: "What con- 
stitutes Lectio Divina?" ... 

While eliminating the possibility that the Subjective Disposition 
of the Reader, or even a God-directed Orientation of what is Read are 
of themselves sufficient to constitute Lectio Divina, the point must 
be made that both these elements are obviously a part of the whole 
portrait of Lectio Divina we are here painting. What must now be fur- 
ther done is to add to them SOMETHING MORE of a special kind. 

There might be several ways by which we could characterize that 
something more. I am choosing the word "DIALOGUE" to encapsulate it. 
This is precisely what is done in the first paragraph of #102 of our 
Constitutions which gives a definition of Lectio Divina and confirms 
it with a sentence from Saint Ambrose. 

I have to read the Latin text to make clear what I am saying. 
It is very precise. Instead of making a kind of observation on the 
subject as our American translation renders the text ("Spiritual 
Reading is directed to a real dialogue with God") ... the Latin, 
strictly rendered, becomes a clear-cut definition: 

"Lectio Divina ilia est quae ad verum colloquim cum 
Deo ordinatur." ("Lectio Divina is that which is or- 
dered toward a true colloquy [Dialogue] with God.") 

This ordering to Dialogue is what specifies Lectio Divina, according 
to our Constitutions! 

Lectio Divina is not merely READING. It is supernatural activ- 
ity! And there are two persons involved: It is not just I who am 
acting; God is acting, too! -- The Lord is speaking ... for Saint 
Ambrose tells us we are hearing him ("...we listen to him") when we 
read the divine revelation. 

In the preceding number, #101 of our Constitutions, there is a 
listing of a number of ways in which we hear Christ. I shall not be 
going into all these ways, since I am limited in what I am able to 
cover in the space of this lecture. But at their head stand the 


Sacred Scriptures. This is Lectio Divina in the fullest sense of 
the term, whether I am reading them myself or listening to someone 
else's reading. In either case I am listening to HIM. And the re- 
sponse to hearing his word is Dialogue with him - my Creator, Savior, 
Sane t i f ier . 

We will linger for some moments on this summit of the "Something- 
More" element in our search for what constitutes Lectio Divina. ... 

Von Balthasar in his book, PRAYER writes: 

"Man is the being created as hearer of the Word, 
and only in responding to the Word rises to his 
full dignity. He was conceived in the mind of 
God as the partner in a_ dialogue . " * 

In Lectio Divina a whole new world opens to us as we cultivate 
an attitude of "listening" while we are reading. We are partners in 
a dialogue - so we must lift the word out of its enmeshment in print 
to hear God "speaking" what we read. ... 

I have to be wary! ... My eye can pass along so quickly! ... I 
can have some "knowledge" of what I am reading, without KNOWing the 
word that is there, in the Biblical sense of "KNOWING": a One-ing 
of the Reader with the Word; ... or, as Jean Leclercq describes it: 

"...A dialogue that is a simple consent to the 
words .. .read, savored, loved — and to God who 
speaks them." 2 

I give my whole attention to his Presence, an attention that 
tacitly says, "Lord, I want to enter into dialogue with you." ... 
And there are his words before me - HIS part of the initial dialogue - 
waiting for me to hear the message they carry, and to accept the 
grace o f response he offers each time I attentively read or listen 
to his word. 

"Grace" in this context means that when I thus give my attention 
to God he is always there, ready to communicate; even more, h e is ini- 
tiating the dialogue. Grace means that God is not only the one who 
speaks but also the one who constitutes the possibility of my hearing 
what is said. ... Because all of us are interested in Contemplative 
Prayer as normal in the development of the life of grace, let me add 
that "Transforming Union" in our present context can be viewed as 
perfection of the Dialogue -- the obstacles removed as far as possible 
in this life. All the ascetical efforts of my spiritual journey - in 
monastic terms, the "active life" - are aimed at making myself ready 
for this "theoria", the tasting of God in the intercommunication of 

the contemplative life. So, we catch a fuller glimpse of what is 

going on both in our Regular Observances and in our Lectio Divina, 
however veiled that activity may often be! 

Another way of looking at Lectio Divina is to say that what is 
happening in it is even more than reading and listening; it is GIFT- 
GIVING, an exchange of gifts. -- God's grace and his word are his 

1 H. U. von Balthasar, PRAYER (Sheed and Ward), pp. 18-19. 

2 J. Leclercq, O.S.B., "Meditation as a Biblical Reading", 

in WORSHIP, XXXIII: IX (October 1959) p. 565 


gift; my effort, my attention and response are m_y gift. He is al- 
ways ready to give his gift. And the marvelous thing about the 
exchange is that, as I go on in my giving, what I receive in my 
Lectio Divina becomes less important to me than what I give! 

It is obvious that what I have been saying applies above all to 
Lectio Divina as reading of Sacred Scripture. I hope to go on before 
the end of this lecture to make some extensions to reading which tra- 
ditionally holds the next place after the Scriptures. However, the 
approach to such reading will in fact be assisted so much the more 
when you allow the stand that I am here taking, viz that it is 
Scripture Re ad in g which properly constitutes Lectio Divina. 

Several things I would like to develop hinge on that stand - 
things that may be helpful in confirming what you are already doing, 
or perhaps start a train of thought that will lead you to find the 
treasure hidden in a new field of intimacy with God. 

As I said earlier, when we pick up some other type of reading 
(one within the first two possibilities we covered) we may, if we do 
not get anything out of it, simply put it back on the shelf and 


What are some of the avenues we can explore in our approach to 
Lectio Divina? ... As we walk them, solutions to some difficulties 
may (indirectly) be found. 

I am choosing to call these avenues of approach to Lectio Divina 
"PREAMBLES" to Lectio. The first of these Preambles is the initial 
necessity of immersing oneself in a "FAITH- STANCE" in order to pene- 
trate beyond and below the surface of the words, so that the sacred 
text may become a dynamic force ("living and effective") in our lives 
The resulting reciprocal activity can become dialogue that is more 
than dialogue! ... The Lord and I -- One leading on the other; 

-- One challenging the other; (I can challenge him too.) 
— One deepening the involvement with the other! 
This is not just a "pretty thing" I am saying. It is real ! God de- 
lights in it so much that he inspired a whole book of Scripture on 
this theme ... the imagery of the Song of Songs: 

"My lover speaks: he says to me, 'Arise, my beloved, 
my beautiful one, and come! ... my dove in the 
clefts of the rock, in the secret recesses of the 
cliff, let me see you, let me hear your voice, for 
your voice is sweet.'" 2:10,14 

And the Bride: 

"I will rise and go about the city; in the streets 
and crossings I will seek him whom my heart loves. 
I sought him but I did not find him." 3:2 

Further on, the Groom: 

"Open to me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, 
my perfect one!" 5:2 


And the Bride: 

"My heart trembled within me, and I grew faint 
when he spoke. ...I opened to my lover - but 
my lover had departed, gone. ...I called to 
him but he did not answer me." 5:4,6 

Faith goes before, accompanies, lends perseverance to the 
interchange . 

A most practical and indispensable aspect of faith, in our times 
more than ever before, is rock-foundation, active faith in the dogma 
of Inspiration ... God's action within the heart and mind of the hu- 
man author (or redactor) at a particular point in time, inspiring 
what was put into writing as the Biblical text - not for the human 
author's sake, but that it might be a word to touch hearts and minds 
down through the centuries . . . and that it might be God's word reach- 
ing me at this point in time! 

God's word is heard a_s God's word only by faith! That faith, 
rather than being a painful straining of my own power, is the making 
use of his power - in a simple "he r e- and-now-ne s s " of my meeting with 
him which is built on that "confident assurance" described in the 
Letter to the Hebrews ... that "conviction about things I do not see" 
which enables me to reach out and respond per s ever ingly as if I were 
"looking on the Invisible God". 

Let us turn to the text of THE NINE WAYS OF PRAYER OF SAINT 
DOMINIC for a delightful description of this living faith. - It is 
in the chapter on Dominic's Eighth Way of Prayer: 

"Saint Dominic had a beautiful way of pray ing .. .which he 
used after the liturgical hours and the grace which is 
said after meals. Sober and alert in his mind, and 
anointed with a spirit of devotion which he had drawn 
from the divine words which had been sung in the choir 
or in the refectory, he would quickly go and sit down 
in some place by himself ... recollect ing himself in him- 
self and fixing himself in the presence of God. He 
would sit there quietly and open some book, always arm- 
ing himself first with the sign of the cross; then he 
would read, letting the sweetness of what he read touch 
his mind, as if he heard the Lord actually speaking to 
him. ...It was as if he were discussing something with 
a friend: at times he would seem to be racing on impa- 
tiently in his mind and in his words; at other times he 
would listen quietly and discuss and argue, and then 
laugh and weep all at once, and fix his gaze, and bow 
his head, speaking quietly again and beating his breast." * 

In this reading-in-f aith , the MIND reaches out to grasp the word 
in faith; this d isposes the person. But ultimately, the movement is 
that of the HEART, the whole person , (as we see graphically illus- 
trated in Saint Dominic) receiving God ' s Action. The work is his 
mor e than mine! 

* All quotations from THE NINE WAYS OF PRAYER OF 

SAINT DOMINIC, edited and translated by Simon 

Tugwell, O.P., Dominican Publications, Dublin, 


A second Preamble to Lectio Divina is a "CLIMATE OF SOLITUDE." 

Father Boniface, in his lecture yesterday morning, touched 
on the notion of external solitude when he was dealing with our Con- 
stitution numbers on enclosure and the cell and how they minister to 
the sacred and to our meeting God. A "Climate of Solitude" goes be- 
yond, is more than, and does not necessarily depend on external sol- 
itude. Considered as a Preamble to Lectio Divina, the emphasis must 
be placed on the inner climate of solitude. This is very closely 
connected with detachment and that disciplining of thoughts so much 
recommended in monastic literature, as also with the Gospel Beati- 
tude: "Blest are the single-hearted for they shall see God." Mt.5:8 

not so much because it is exactly an "authoritative" work but because 
its imagery lends itself to my thought and draws us closer to the in- 
most soul of our holy father. Immediately after the lines quoted 
above from Dominic's Eighth Way of Prayer to illustrate the Saint's 
living faith in approaching lectio, we find a sentence we can apply 
to our notion of a climate of solitude: 

"Had anyone cared to hide and spy on him, he would 
have seen our holy father Dominic just like Moses 
going into the inner desert and coming to the moun- 
tain of God, Horeb, and seeing the burning bush, 
and the Lord speaking, calling him to humble him- 

Dominic, the Community-man, knew how to employ external solitude 
and how to safeguard it for both Study and Lectio; but the accounts 
of him also show his ability to create a climate of inner solitude 
even on the road. So we go on to read in Dominic's Ninth Way of 
Prayer : 

"This was how he prayed when travelling from country 
to country, especially when he was in a lonely place: 
...he would sometimes say to his companions, 'It is 
written in Hosea: I will lead her into the wilder- 
ness and speak to her heart.' So sometimes he went 
aside from his companion, or went on ahead, or more 
often lingered behind, and then he would walk by 
himself and pray as he walked, and in his meditation 
a fire was kindled." 

I quote the text less for itself than to lead up to what follows a 
little further on in the same chapter: 

"The brethren thought that in this kind of prayer 
the saint reached the fullness of sacred scripture 
and the very heart of the understanding of God's 
words... and also a hidden intimacy with the Holy 
Spirit to know hidden mysteries." 

In this climate of solitude there is an intimate connection be- 
tween listen ing and detachment. We have all had the experience of 
speaking to someone who was not really listening. -- She had some- 
thing else on her mind. ... Well, no one has had that experience more 
than the good God! I can so much fail to be open to all the possi- 
bilities his word is holding for me because I am only HALF- 1 i s t en ing . 
My solitude is peopled by rivals to his voice; in some way or in some 
measure I am not detached! 


When we detect this, I would suggest that we find within God's 
wo id itself a remedy and reply to every preoccupation. Test your 
own preoccupations (we call them "distractions") against such sen- 
t ences as : 

"Where your treasure is, there is your heart also..." Mt.6:21 
"Be still and know that I am God..." Ps.46:ll 

"Do not be anxious about tomorrow..." Mt.6:3A 

It is amazing how powerfully sentences similar to these, taken 
from the Scripture itself, can be employed as a veritable "sword of 
the Spirit" drawn against every attack of the enemy of our listening. 

The Book of Revelation has the Lord saying: 

"Here I stand, knocking at the door, if anyone hears 
me calling and opens the door, I will enter his 
house and have supper with him..." Rev. 3:20 

Closely allied to the climate of solitude is that openne s s of 
mind caught in the phrase from Saint Benedict's Rule: "Vacare 
Lectioni". Translating these two words adequately is almost as im- 
possible as the translation of the words "Lectio Divina". All agree, 
however, that the meaning of "vacare lectioni" is to "set oneself 
free" for Lectio -- to "make room" for it. 

You will remember the point Sister Mary of God made in her lec- 
ture when, in connection with paragraph 1 of our Basic Constitution, 
she said: "The women gathered together by Saint Dominic in what was 
to become the monastery of Prouille are identified by the expression 
'soli Deo vacantes' = 'free for God alone' ... totally at God's dis- 
posal ... unoccupied except with God." -- The monastic phrase "va- 
care lectioni" is a particular application of this basic concept of 
the whole of our life. 

Our Constitutions (#97) speak of "a sufficient amount of time... 
to be determined... for engaging in private prayer and Lectio Divina." 
They also speak of a "setting oneself free" for the action of the 
Word . We read in // 1 08 : 

"Shunning the cares and illusions of the world, the 
sisters allow the seed which is the word of God to 
grow in them by the power of the Holy Spirit..." 

What is this, but to say that they are "open", "empty", "ready" for 
the action and fruit of their Lectio! 

On this disposition for our Lectio let me share with you an 
easily remembered comparison - a very contemporary image. Father 
Ambrose Wathen, O.S.B., writing of the problem of translating the 
words "vacare lectioni" says: 

"There may be an experience that can speak to us about 
the HOW of doing our Lectio Divina. ...The phrase 
'Vacare TV' gives the nuance. When people watch TV, 
they do it without compulsion for production. ...They 
delight in it; they forget time. There is space, 
time, leisure, freedom for such 'vacatio.'" 3 

Happily, we the Dominican Nuns appreciate more than ever the 
opportunities we already have for this setting ourselves free, and 

3 A. Wathen, O.S.B., "Monastic Lectio: Some Clues from Ter- 
minology," in MONASTIC STUDIES, XII (1976), p. 215. 


we are on the alert, individually and as communities, to provide 
space, time, leisure, freedom for fruitful Study and Lectio. 

I add one last (but powerful) reminder of the provision made by 
our Constitutions for our being "set free" for Lectio and Study - 
and of their priority in our lives. In // 1 1 3 (the chapter on WORK) a 
norm is established for us. I translate from the Latin: 

"In programming the work of the nuns attention must 
always be given to the priority of the divine office 
and prayer, as well as to the necessity of lectio 
divina and doctrinal study ." 

(Note the word: "necessity"!) 

What we have been dwelling upon are the imme d i a t e preambles to 
Lectio Divina. There are r emo t e preambles in our Constitutions, im- 
pregnating the previous numbers. We find fresh motivation for their 
observance when we look at them precisely from the orientation of 
their ministry to Lectio and Study. One who is living earnestly her 
monastic life will know the complementarity with her Lectio of all 
the other elements of her life. I bring to Lectio and Study the 
person I am ! 

While looking thus at Lectio and Study as in a place of prefer- 
ence and as being ministered to by our regular observances - and 
recalling, too, what I said earlier about the quality of our life 
being affected by the quality of our Lectio (and Study) - the very 
emphasis I am making calls for the additional statement that our life 
is not a LIFE of Lee t i o / S t udy . It is a life of PRAYER and, as was 
pointed out several times in previous lectures, a CHRI STO-CENTRIC life 
The value of Lectio and Study is precisely the formation they give and 
their own ministry to our life of prayer and "putting on Christ". 

One last observation of the Preambles to Lectio Divina. ... 

In times of power le s sne s s we may have to - or find it helpful 
to - deliberately direct our attention to each Preamble in turn; and 
often that will be exactly what is needed to overcome the powerless- 
ness. In times of greater facility, on the other hand, they will 
all be caught up in one intuitive approach. 

We have spent so much time in " s e t t ing- the- s t age" for Lectio 
Divina because I can take you only to the entry, as it were, and 
then I must leave you to the encounter and dialogue which is uniquely 
yours. In this sense, there is no method in Lectio Divina such as 
one might find in methods of Discursive Meditation. The engagement 
in Lectio Divina is not the same as in Discursive Meditation. 

You have, however, done enough reading about Lectio Divina to 
be familiar with what might be thought of as a "method", viz the Four 
Steps consistently outlined in the monastic tradition of engaging in 
Lectio Divina. We need some knowledge and experience of Lectio as 
carried out in this classic monastic approach in order that each of 
us may find our own way of realizing to the fullest the possibilities 
it can hold. 

We find the Four Steps in the monastic tradition in the follow- 
ing order : 





ui- . \ n i_/ i. c i_ ii a l i.11 n c u j. i_ ci l i. u u unc u u c 3 l due uuiu ... 

my activity - exercised discursively.) Likewise, in this process of 
Lectio Divina I am not searching for moral applications or weaving 
together beautiful thoughts. 

There are various subtle ways by which we can "take hold"; and 
we can find ourselves (or, at least, we should be wary of) construc- 
ting a substitute "technique". I meet God in Lectio Divina in my 
pove r t y ! ... as she "who is not"! 

But . . . what DO I do? It is here that we have the interplay 

of the four elements. Now, THE NINE WAYS OF PRAYER has a special in- 
terest for us in that the revised text of our Constitutions proposes 
to incorporate two lines from Saint Dominic's Eighth Way of Prayer as 
an addition to the second paragraph of the present text of L.C.M.//102 
The addition will join the four "steps" (with Dominic as our model) 
to the nuns' having "the sacred scriptures always at hand and medita- 
tively reading them". 

To get the context, I repeat a little of what was already read 
in the Eighth Way, and then add the relevant lines: 

"...our holy father Dominic just like Moses going 
into the inner desert and coming to the mountain 
of God and seeing the burning bush, and the Lord 
speaking, calling him to humble himself. The 
mountain of the Lord means this prophetic manner 
of passing quickly from reading t_o prayer , from 
prayer to meditation , from meditation to con- 
templat ion . " 

The Four Steps of the monastic tradition appear in this passage, but 
the slight change in their sequence catches our interest: 





What we take from all this is that there is no rigid pattern or 
delimiting. In pract ice , as you know from your own experience, there 
is an intermingling of the Steps. ... And, actually, do you find that 
LECTIO to ORATIO is more your experience than LECTIO to MEDITATIO?... 
Reading to Prayer, as the NINE WAYS puts it, more than Reading to 
Meditation? ... In any case, when dealing with the Four Steps, two of 
them are always possible and always necessary: Reading and Prayer 
(LECTIO and ORATIO). The CONTEMPLATIO is not always at our "command" 
as it were, at least if one wants to think of contemplation in terms 
of a certain "experiential awareness". 

I wish to single out one of the steps, MEDITATIO, for some par- 
ticular remarks. -- Monastic tradition likes to use the word RUMINATI 


as a synonym because of its association with a root that conveys 
the idea of chewing over and over. (The rumina t ing/med i t a t io of 
the early monks is familiar to you.) This MEDITATIO has its place 
in the time set aside for formal Lectio Divina; but even more im- 
portant, perhaps, is the place of this ruminating on the scriptural 
word throughout our day. 

I suggest that for us Nuns of the Order of Preachers the synonym 
for "meditatio" as carried through our day should be "recog i t are" 
("to ponder") - the word used in paragraph two of our Basic Constitu- 
tion. I venture to say that in this step of MEDITATIO, of "ponder- 
ing", we are at the touchstone of the value of both Lectio and 
Study -- that the key to their influence on all the other aspects of 
our life is in this PONDERING! We carry about with us the word from 
our Lectio ... pondering ... ruminating. And this is not an op t i on ; 
it is basic to our life! 

"It is for the nuns to seek him, to ponder 
and pray. . ." L.C.M. 1 . § II 

To do this more and more earnestly and constantly is trans forming 
for us individually, and for each of our communities. 

Since our time has run out, let me just briefly add something 
on Lectio and the Liturgy because I have not touched much on this 
aspect of "listening". We have given over the time of this lecture 
to dealing with private Lectio Divina, and this was most important. 
However, when Sister Mary of God first wrote to ask me if I would 
take part in this Assembly by delivering this talk, she right l»y said 
of Lectio Divina and Study in Chapter Three of our Constitutions: 
"...this of course is closely related to Chapter Two on Prayer." 

Liturgy is included in the latter chapter and would need a 
whole lecture of its own. But there is a special meaning to Lectio 
Divina's relation to the liturgy because God's word in Scripture - 
something that we read as "written" - originally was not a word for 
this or that individual person to read. It was a spoken word for 
oral communication to a people , spoken and listened to by a c om - 
mun i t y , and preserved and proclaimed and responded to pre-eminently 
by that people in communal worship. 

Father O'Donnell touched on this when, speaking of the Ecclesial 
Reality in our consecration to God (in our Basic Constitution § III 
and § IV), he singled out for attention our celebration of the Li- 
turgy of the Hours in a new awareness of their meaning. I would say 
that the more appreciation of value we bring to our private reading 
and our pondering, the more alive will become our liturgical cele- 
brations - our entry into the "mystery" together. And the words we 
use to celebrate will be words we are listening to ... listening ... 

The early monks read the Scriptures as members of the Church and 
in meditation on the mystery of the Church. There was a movement from 
their private reading to the liturgical reading and celebrat ion of the 
word - and then back again - which is reflected in our monastic bal- 
ancing of times for communal celebration of God's word and mystery in 
and among us, and our personal holding to and being upheld by the word 
throughout the rest of the day. There is great profit to be found in 
seeing one leading into and flowing out of the other. ... And all of 
this means LIFE ! 



Thomas Doyle, O.P. 

Last night when I got on the plane, they made the initial an- 
nouncements, and said: "We have a copy of our magazine in the little 
pocket in the seat in front of you which you can take along with you 
as you leave." And so when we landed in Hartford, I just reached in, 
took it and put it in my briefcase. Last night after arriving, when 
1 was up in my room, I opened my briefcase to page through this maga- 
zine. It was the company magazine for US Air * But I had not picked 
up that magazine. By mistake there was another one in the little 
pocket. It was BAZAAR . Have you ever heard of that? It's a women's 
fashion magazine. I looked through it. It had all sorts of ads for 
jewelry and outlandish clothing. Someone who wanted to live up to 
the standards set by this magazine probably would require a weekly 
income which would be equal to, and in excess of, that of all of us 
in this room put together. I was thinking last night and again this 
morning when I got up what some of the devotees of this magazine would 
think of you. They would probably say i "They're out of it. They're 
living in another world j they're irrelevant. How can they really be 
with it?" And then I thought also of the nice things that are in this 
magazine that make somebody someone, jewelry, clothing, various and 
sundry fashions, the way to make oneself beautiful. This will all 
become dust some day. What you have, all of you, and all of us, as a 
matter of fact, is that we have latched ourselves on to something im- 
portant. The Dominican Order give meaning to our lives and has not 
fallen into the dust after almost 800 years. So I suppose the answer 
to the question "What is relevant?" is there. You probably don't 
get BAZAAR in your convent. You don't need it because it wouldn't 
add anything to your lives. In fact it might distract you a little 
too much. 

I'm very happy to be here and that the Dominican relevance has 
continued for almost bOO years. Because of that irrelevance in the 
face of the so-called "relevant" world, the Order has been a kind of 
magnet for the truth of Christ. What I would like to do is take a 
little journey into law and legislation, norms and regulations, and 
enhance the ability of each of us to see our Dominican vocation and 
its living out a little more clearly. I have had very little to do 
with the Nuns of our Order, not by design but because of lack of op- 
portunity. In preparing for this venture, for these talks, I must 
admit that I did so with a great deal of apprehension, because I was 
moving into an area with which I did not feel all that familiar. But 
after doing some study and reading, I felt very comfortable and en- 
couraged in looking back into our Dominican roots and history. On 
days when I wonder whether it's all worth it, I can think of this, 
that I'm sure many thousands of other brothers and sisters have asked 
themselves i "Was it all worth It?" over these 800 years and it has 
certainly been so. 


The first thing to consider is our own unique Dominican legisla- 
tive spirit. All law must be understood from its spirit, and not 
simply from its letter. One can understand law from its spirit by 
looking at the reason for which it exists, what it seeks to protect, 
what its ends are. The law found in the Church — both canon law, the 
code of canon law and other "ad hoc" legislation, as well as the law 
that governs the various religious communities and orders--has a pur- 
pose, a meaning and an end that is radically different from any other 
legal system in the world. Every legal system has as its purpose the 
protection of an ideal, the protection of the purpose of the people 
who have enacted this legal system. The Constitution of the United 
States of America has as its purpose the sustenance of the community 
of the people who are the United States. If the United States were 
conquered or ceased to exist, the Constitution would be meaningless 
because its purpose would no longer exist. The legal structures of 
the Knights of Columbus have as their purpose the protection of the 
ends of this organization. If the organization is disbanded, its law 
ceases to have meaning. The legal structures of the Church, however, 
do not concern themselves only with the sustenance and existence of 
the Church as a human organism, as a human organization. The consti- 
tutions of the Dominicans--friars, sisters and nuns — have as their pur- 
pose not simply sustaining the Dominican ideal, but they have as their 
purpose assisting us to move Into that life for which we were created, 
namely eternal life. That is the reason for the legal system of the 
Church — to assist the pilgrims through this vale of tears; and there- 
fore, it will be interpreted, it will be applied, it will be used and 
understood differently from any other legal system. However, the Church 
is not only the Body of Christ, a spiritual charismatic reality, but 
also a human organization influenced by the structures of society. 
These will affect the lives of its members, the way Church is formed 
and continues to exist. The governmental models that were extant in 
the twelfth century had a great influence on what St. Dominic did, 
on the way he structured his community, because these same govern- 
mental models had a great influence on the other religious communities 
of the time. 

Most of the models, most of the religious communities 
and orders at the time used the monarcnical model because this was the 
predominant governmental form at that time. Monarchy is a legitimate 
form of government which has guided more human organizations than any 
other form throughout human history. The monarchical model was adopted 
certainly by the Benedictines. Where the abbot was the father, he Was 
elected or appointed. Very often he became abbot because of family 
connections, which also was not unusual in governmental formation. A 
variation on this was the model which was used by the canons regular. 
Their governmental model has been characterized as aristocratic for 
it was not one individual but a small group of individuals who con- 
trolled, who led the government of the organization. Power then was 
concentrated in individuals and it flowed from the top down. By elec- 
tion or appointment one became a powerful person but the power was 
used to order the lige of the religious. When assemblies were held 
they were infrequent and when they occurred they were really an exer- 
cise of executive power of the leaders, the abbots, bishops or what- 
ever, using their power to order the life of the community or to 


answer needs that had arisen. These two basic governmental mode 
the monarchical and the aristocratic, suited the purposes of rel .ous 
communities at that time. For the most part all religious commur, ,ies 
were stable. They were an established community that remained tlh re. 
The main purpose was keeping alive the "Opus Dei", the divine of: ce, 
the liturgy and the physical or economic sustenance of the commu; ty. 
Many of these communities and monasteries became quite large. Sta- 
bility, manual labor, common liturgy were foremost in importance . St. 
Dominic had to adapt some of these elements, the monarchical, the 
aristocratic, the regular lifestyles, to suit his basic purpose in 
founding a religious community for teaching, preaching and study- -all 
of this within the context of ieading a somewhat regular life. He had 
to adapt these needs for existence in what often was a hostile envi- 
ronment , 


After reading the history of the constitutions of the Order 
(Vicaire's and Mandonnet's work), one sees that our founder was a very 
practical and blunt individual! he was also an excellent, foresighted 
political systems theorist. St. Dominic, had he not been the founder 
of the Order, would probably have gone down in history as a political 
scientist or theorist. He was influenced by a number of different 
kinds of secular and religious frameworks and yet he created a very 
practical, elastic, lasting governmental framework or blueprint. 
Mobility, freedom from the demands of manual labor, and the opportu- 
nity for study were most important. Rene Galbraith, in his history of 
the constitutions, saysi "The friars were from the first, and still 
are, canons." Humbert of Romans repeating the tradition of the Order, 
stated that St. Dominic chose the Rule of St. Augustine because its 
terms were sufficiently vague to allow the special type of life and 
study and preaching which he planned that his followers live without 
infringing any clause of it. It certainly seems that this kind of 
life which had more freedom and stability would not be served well by 
either the monarchical or the aristocratic governmental model. St. 
Dominic came up with something which was radically unique for that 
time, namely a representative governmental form. This concept is re- 
sponsible for the fact that our Order has never split apart, has never 
been surpressed, has had weak and difficult times, but has never fallen 
prey to that human weakness of seeking for power. Power is not a bad 
thing, only its misuse. The concept of representative government is pre- 
mised on a reallotment of the source of power. From this reallotment 
comes other practical considerations. How are laws made and who makes 
them? How does leadership come to be and how is it sustained? What ia 
the relationship of a superior to a subject? What is the very nature 
of a superior? What are the prerequisites for the office? One of the 
unique things that was starting to come into religious life, both 
military and religious orders at that time, was the assembly of the 
brethren and the sisters. Chapters were for us the major unique legis- 
lative assembly and remain so. The most important governmental feature 
of our Order is the chapter, the assembly of the subjects coming to- 
gether. These have always been composed of the representatives of the 
communities. Dominicans have never had universal suffrage in their 
form of government. The major chapters, general chapters, provincial 
chapters have never functioned where everyone has a vote. At the 


present time and going back through history, the Holy See itself 
has not always looked benignly, and still does not look benignly, on 
universal suffrage. Frequently, communities have asked to have uni- 
versal suffrage in the election of supreme moderators and regularly 
the Holy See has turned them down. The very few exceptions have been 
from small communities where everyone knew one another. When Domini- 
cans go into chapter, representatives are equal. In chapter, the 
prior and his socii or socius have an equal voice. A prior doesn't 
have two votes and a socius one. The same is true of the nuns because 
they share intimately in this governmental spirit and process. The 
provincial, too, during chapter is equal to the others. The repre- 
sentatives, the capitulars, be they nuns or priests or brothers, enjoy 
freedom of choice in voting for individuals or for issues. They are 
not bound to follow the instructions of their constituencies. Elected 
delegates listen to what the members of the community or college have 
to say, what they want and need, but as in any good representative 
government, have the freedom to change their mind because of the dis- 
cussions that ensue when the chapter assembly meets. The power then 
comes from all. The source of power for St. Dominic was the assembly 
premised on a maturity, stability and honesty that would prompt the 
members to want what is good for the community and, ultimately, what is 
good for the Church. 

The next point that is important is an understanding of the nature 
of the superior in our Dominican way of life. The Order, the assembly, 
gives the superior his power. The Dominican idea of the superior most 
closely resembles the notion of membership in the Body of Christ found 
in Lumen Gentium . All of our superiors are elected. There is always 
a set period of time for their reign. They do not go on forever with 
the exception of T.S. Mc Dermott, who appeared that he might. That 
wasn't bad i he did a lot of good. For the most part, our superiors' 
terms of office are limited. The general used to be in office for 
twelve years and this has become nine. Priors have a three year termj 
provincials, a little longer. It is interesting that when the superi- 
or's term finishes, he lays down his office and returns to his normal 
work and position in the community, as if he had never held a position 
at all. There is an absolute equality among the professed members of 
the community, nuns or brothers. Precedence is taken, not on birth, not 
on the position of the community one comes from, but on precedence of 
entrance to the Order. Experience and ability alone are supposed to 
give people fame and promotion in the Order. This is not always so, as 
human weakness enters into the situation. At least St. Dominic knew 
theoretically of what we as children of God were capable. Lumen Gen - 
tium talks repeatedly about all of us and the Church being the People 
of God, about a spiritual equality among all no matter what outfits 
they wear, what position they have. It then talks about the different 
roles, functions, ministries and positions in the Church in terms of 
service and giving. This is what St. Dominic seemed to have in mind in 
structuring his constitutions as far as the role of superior is con- 
cerned. All were equal yet some were asked to serve in a very unique 
way. This service was for a certain period of time and it was, in a 
sense, charitable of him because he realized if one stayed in authority 


too long, it could go to one's head. Power can corrupt. This way 
there was a check and balance. There is an old sayingi "You've got 
to be nice to the fellows on the was up because they're going to be 
the same ones you meet on the way down." The Dominican legislative 
spirit demands a certain maturity. There was always a great deal of 
independence in our community, in our Order, an independence that 
freed the brothers to move around answering needs wherever they were. 
Because there was not a stability towards one community, there was a 
need to develop a greater degree of maturity. This necessitated 
more trust placed in individuals and in superiors. Because of this 
independence and this maturity, both the nuns and the brothers have 
a continued method of renewal in their constitutions and legislation. 
These are never definitively approved by anyone. As Dominicans, we 
have that privilege. This is a sign of trust in our community that 
our constitutions, in order to be changed, require three successive 
chapters, protecting us against impetuousness on the part of the ca- 
pitulars. This also allows for recognition of changing circumstances 
in the society in which we work and live. We are responsible, as 
Dominicans, the brothers and sisters are responsible for assessing 
the needs of the Order, vis a vis , the needs of the Church. We are 
responsible for making appropriate changes. Nobody tells us what these 
are t we have to rely on our communication with the Spirit. It's pre- 
sumed in all of this that what's uppermost in mind is the good of the 
Church, then the good of the Order, then the good of the local com- 
munity, but above all, the good of the Church. Without the Church we 
are nothing and have no right to exist* we serve the Church. 

Obedience, which is key and necessary in our way of life and our 
legislative spirit, is made to the person of the superior. We all in 
our solemn vows gave obedience to the Master of the Order and his 
successors; we make our obedience to his person. We do not make our 
obedience to the book of laws that contain the constitutions and the 
Rule of St. Augustine. We do not make obedience to a dead letter, but 
to a living letter as it is guided, directed and interpreted by the 
successor of St. Dominic. This requires in itself a tremendous amount 
of trust and a recognition that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, is 
guiding the Master. 

There is in our Dominican constitutions the power of dispensation, 
unique in Church law. There is some dispensing power in secular legal 
systems, but not as a prevalent factor. It is in our law. Except for 
the fact that Divine laws cannot be dispensed, except by God, and in a 
few other exceptions, our constitutions may be dispensed by the compe- 
tent superiors. With the code of canon law itself the bishop, the 
local ordinary, can dispense from most disciplinary ecclesiastical 
laws unless this is reserved to the Holy See or if it is Divine law. 
This indicates that there is something beyond the law and it is the 
shaping of people. There are the needs of individuals, of people, that 
can go beyond what the law envisoned. It is true to say that whenever 
a law is promulgated it becomes out of date. This is not to be der- 
rogatory about the law but it means that we go on, the book remains as 
printed. We go on and must know how to deal intelligently with need 


and with laws. On the matter of dispensation, the Holy Father alone 
can dispense from all ecclesiastical disciplinary law, either particu- 
lar or universal, and in some instances he can dispense from Divine 
positive law. 

Law grows out of the spirit of what the Church is; it is based 
on the nature of the Church. At the time of the promulgation of the 
1917 code the common definition of the Church was "the perfect society". 
The code looked at structure because it grew out of the governmental, 
political mold of the time.. The perfect society had within it all 
that was needed for salvation. At the present time law is seen as 
something that brings into practical reality the theoretical dimen- 
sion of the Church as the people of God. This grows out of the con- 
cept in Mystic i Corporis of all the members being important and vital 
parts in the Body of Christ. As members of this Body, responsible to 
see that it flourishes on this earth, each of us has a spiritual equal- 
ity. Our roles, ministries and functions are equally important in 
building up the Body. This struck me as we celebrated Eucharist 1 for 
the most part, the lives of the nuns are unseen and unknown, when they 
die and are buried and are prayed for in the monasteries, there will 
probably be only a few people pr^s^nt. When a Cardinal, an archbishop, 
the Holy Father dies, the whole world looks at it as a wider community. 
This is one of the major crosses we all bear as religious 1 this is the 
realization that we live with a foot in two worlds. And it doesn't 
matter what we have on when they put us in that box because it is only 
a bunch of dust. What is important is what we have done to build up 
this Body. The constant prayer of the nuns for their brother priests, 
who are on the road and don't always take the time to pray for them- 
selves, is a great consolation and just as important as the work of the 
Father General, the Apostolic Nuncio or the Promoter. All are important 
in building up this Body. It needs a spirit to keep it alive and that 
is where prayer comes in. That is the nuns' most important part in 
sharing our life, and ours in sharing with the nuns 1 this is the nuns' 
vocation to preaching. It is necessary to keep this spiritual equality 
in mind and remember that equality does not mean sameness. We may have 
a spiritual equality in the eyes of God. One may be given some author- 
ity! Father General is given more authority. We have an equality in His 
eyes. He have a great responsibility to live up to the authority given. 
Canon 204 says 1 "Christ's faithful, Christi f ideles , are those who 
since they are incorporated into Christ through Baptism are constituted 
the people of God. For this reason they participate in their own way 
in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ." For the first 
time in our legal books we have a definition of what Church is and what 
the bonds are that bind us to this Church. The "Church" is the Catho- 
lic Church, this Body of Christ under the Holy Father, the successor 
of Peter and the bishops in union with him. What are the bonds that 
bind Catholics to the Church? They are governmental union, union in 
the sacraments and the profession of faith. It tells us, moreover, in 
the canons that religious life is not part of the hierarchical struc- 
ture of the Church. The hierarchical structure is this governmental 
model through which power is distributed. Religious life is part of 
the more spirituali charismatic dimension of the Church. It intimately 
pertains to the holiness of the Church because it shows there are peo- 
ple who go the limit in the potential for holiness that God has given. 


The Holy Father is very concerned about religious life in this 
latter part of the twentieth century, and rightly so. He has mani- 
fested a real concern for the state of the active apostolic communi- 
ties, especially in the United States. He has issued a letter to the 
bishops in a document called The Essential Elements of Religious Life . 
This has caused consternation among some religious in this country. 
The document really pertains to most if not all. It's nothing radical 
or revolutionary and nothing unique or subversive. It's just a dis- 
tilling off the top of the basic law of the Church a certain number of 
these basic elements from the code, the various documents since Vati- 
can II and from Perfectae Garitatis . Why is he concerned? He is con- 
cerned because of the roles religious play in the life of the Church 
as signs of contradiction. Religious don't take their life from the 
secular society where they livej they give life to that society. 
Therefore, the Holy Father has enacted a special commission to study 
the apostolic communities to determine why there has been a drop off 
in the number of religiousi to look at interaction with the world, the 
influence upon our lives of the economic, political, social and cul- 
tural factors that are active in American society in this latter part 
of the century. Hopefully this study and the closer look at these 
essential elements will result in a clearer realization of our role 
in history. Some of the spirit of the new code can be understood as 
having grown out of the Council and where we have been In the past I 
several decades. Understanding this, we will understand a little bit 
more how to apply this spirit to the constitutions of the nuns. There 
has been a shift from detail and generalization of detail to the par- 
ticular. A principle of the new code is that the Church is the people 
of God. Therefore, the responsibilities for much of the practical life 
of the Church goes from centralized authority to the local Church to 
the broader community. Out of this grows the principle of subsidiarity 
in the creation of a legal system for the Church. This principle grows 
out of the meaning of the Church as people of God sharing responsibili- 

There is a reduction in the code of particular detail. This may 
be difficult for some to deal with as we expected always to go to the 
book and find the answer to our problemi it's no longer there. More 
is left to what we call particular legislation. That's the legislation 
that exists in the book of constitutions. This is particular legislation! 
for the Dominican nuns. The particular law is the constitutional the 
general law is the code. It is difficult in the "here and now" to 
shift from this one approach to law to the concept of subsidiarity and 
making particular law, because we want to go back to what we had before. 
We want to try to include all these other elements when really we 
should be deleting certain elements from our legislation, keeping 
only what is essential and needed at this time. So simplicity then, 
and the concept of subsidiarity are guaranteed by that trust that St. 
Dominic bui|t into his governmental system. It is guaranteed by the 
fact that the power is with the mature Dominican brothers and sisters 
who enact the law and give the power. It is through this that we are 
asked to return to the spirit of the founder. Now this business of 
returning to the spirit and charisra of the founder has been greatly 
misused in the past several decades by groups that in enacting their 
own particular legislation, have tried to include anything an? every- 
thing into a description of who and what they are. Realistically, 



to return to an understanding of the spirit of the founder requires 
a tremendous amount of study and enlightenment. As Dominicans, it 
requires not only that we read what St. Dominic and those first nuns 
at Prouille did and how they lived their lives, but why they did what 
they did and what was influencing them from the world in which they 

We don't do what these people in the eleventh, twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries did. We want to find out why they did what they 
did, why they lived the way they lived, why Dominic built in dispens- 
ing power, why he was a rebel and a radical in creating this assembly 
representative governmental model. Returning to the spirit of the 
founder is not a romantic or a naive escapism into another era when 
things always look better. Much has been said of returning the litur- 
gy to that of the primitive Church. Nobody really knows what they 
were like in the primitive church, because after the Edict of Con- 
stantine, everything changed. There is very little actually known, 
practically speaking, about what those early assemblies were like 
beyond what we have described for us in some of the New Testament 
epistolary passages and some of the very early Christian writings. 
I don't want to return to the way it was in the early church having 
someone breathing down my neck with a spear. I like to live a little 
easier. I don't want to have Mass in a cave; I really prefer the 
splendor of a nice cathedral. I think that rather than return to the 
physical surroundings, we must return to the primitive spirit. For 
Dominic, this primitive spirit had a good dose of the missionary in 
it, the missionary both at home and elsewhere bringing the Spirit of 
Christ, but also learning what this entails. To spread the truth 
one can't just feel good about it, but must have something to give. 
St. Thomas says you can't give what you don't have. We are not all 
infused at solemn profession totally with the knowledge of the gospels. 
We have to study continually to spread this. The Church and the new 
law are concerned with the patrimony of the various institutes. There 
are two canons that are very important for understanding ou particular 
law. Canon 578 sayst "The whole patrimony of an institute must be 
faithfully preserved by all. This patrimony is comprised of the 
intentions of the founders, of all that the competent ecclesiastical 
authority has approved concerning the nature, purpose, spirit and 
character of the institute and of its sound traditions." Canon 586 
statesi "A true autonomy of life, especially of governance, is recog- 
nired for each institute. This autonomy means that each institute 
has its own discipline in the church and can preserve whole and entire 
the patrimony described in canon 578. Local ordinaries have the re- 
sponsibility of preserving and safeguarding this autonomy." This is 
an obligation the local ordinaries, the bishops, have to protect and 
preserve and guarantee our autonomy as Dominicans, and the Carmelite 
autonomy and the Franciscan autonomy as well. What are some of these 
aspects of our patrimony? The governmental tradition and its spirit, 
the intellectual life, study, teaching, preaching, exemption from the 
local ordinaries, the way we have developed particular legislation 
are all aspects. 

In discussing the relationship of the local ordinary to Dominican 
autonomy, the question of exemption arises. Exemptions was really 
honed down and given its first practical application with our Order. 
What is exemption? It is a privilege, that is accorded to a community 
by the Holy Father, the supreme bishop. Lumen Gentium , number 45, 


aaya that the Pope can exempt religious from the local ordinaries 
and can entrust them to the care of proper patriarchal authorities. 
In the new code, canon 591 restates the matter of exemption. As al- 
ready stated, exemption is a privilege. Those communities that were 
exempt under the 1917 code remain exempt unless the privilege has 
been expressly revoked according to canon 4. All religious live out 
their vocation, do their apostolate, including cloistered nuns, in 
the context of the local church which is the diocese. The diocese 
is no longer a fiefdom of the Holy Father presided over by one of his 
vicars, called a bishop. Under Lumen Gentium and Christus Dominus 
the local church is now a portion of the people of God and the bishop 
is the vicar of Christ there. Consequently there has to be a relation- 
ship of mutual respect and responsibility between the religious commu- 
nities living and working in the local diocese, the local church and 
the vicar of Christ for this diocese. We work with him and for him. 
Nevertheless, because of the particular work and life of our community,, 
our Order, we have this privilege of exemption. Because of the fact 
that it is a privilege we must live up to and fulfill the demands that 
go with the privilege. In the old law, the 1917 code, and in the new 
canons exemption is principally applied to the internal governance 
and life of the particular religious institute. We do not look to the 
local ordinary as our proper ordinary. Our proper ordinary, he who 
has primary responsibility for the structuring, the ordering of our 
internal life, which is most important to us, is the Master of the 
Order, the successor of St. Dominic. He is not simply an executive 
appointed by a board of directors to carry out their commands. He 
is more than this. He embodies the spirit of our founder. Secondly, 
for the friars the proper ordinary is the provincial, who is a major 

When the law refers to "ordinary", it usually doe6 so in 
two contexts. It says" ordinary" or "local ordinary". These are tech- 
nical terms. Whenever it says "local ordinary", it refers first and 
foremost to the diocesan residential bishop and others equated to him 
in law. Prefects apostolic are local ordinaries; vicars general are 
local ordinaries, as are vicars apostolic. In certain instances the 
code will not refer to the power of the local ordinary but to the 
ordinary. In this instance it refers to the proper ordinary. It may 
be a local ordinary, and for religious it will be their religious 
superior. In other instances the canons refer to certain powers of 
dispensation or action, and it particularizes it by referring to the 
diocesan bishop. This is not one of the auxiliary bishops or vicars 
general but it is power that is reserved only to the bishop himself. 
This is usually relative to the gravity or importance of the action 
to be performed. The local ordinary has a responsibility over all 
religious institutes which touch on the care of souls. Those are the 
souls on the outside, our own souls and souls in the wider Church as 
well as matters which are fundamental to the life of the Church. He 
has a responsibility and an obligation to 3ee that these things are 
protected according to the mind of the Church. If in one of the mon- 
asteries, there are regularly a nunber of the faithful that attend 
Mass, even though it's a private oratory, the local ordinary does 
have a right to be vigilant over this dimension of their life. If he 
found out that the chaplain and nuns were planning somewhat bizarre 
liturgies, he does have the right and obligation to intervene. 


Although he ordinarily does not have a right of vigilance over the 
internal life of the first and second orders, if there are abuses or 
negligences of some sort that are grave and he becomes cognizant of 
this, he has a right to move in. For instance, recently 1 had to 
deal with a situation of a cloistered community, non-Dominican, in 
which there were gravely serious problems involving some very bizarre 
things. In these instances the major superior of men, who had the 
authority, did not move in because he did not know about it. But it 
came to the attention of the two local ordinaries in which dioceses 
the monasteries were located ( a monastery and a daughter foundation) 
and these local ordinaries moved in. They acted rightly because the 
first thing they did was to try to give a stop-gap settlement and 
then they dealt with the Holy See in requesting a visitator from the 
patriarchal authority. 

There are certain canons in the code that touch on the relation- 
ship of the nuns to the local ordinary. There are a number of canons 
that touch the relationship of the apostolic orders. These are the 
ones that speak about the cloistered nuns in monasteries. There are 
two kinds of monasteries. There are autonomous monasteries, which are 
under the authority of the local ordinary, and there are monasteries 
that are affiliated with an institute of men. There are two pertinent 
canons that are very important for the understanding of the rest of 
the canons in the code and certain of the provisions of your consti- 
tutions! Canon 614 and canon 615. Let me come to those gradually. 
Rather than explain all of these nine or ten canons that refer to 
relationship, I'll check off the pertinent areas. Canon 586 discusses 
true autonomy of life. This was already mentioned. Canon 586, para- 
graph two sayst "The ordinary has the responsibility of protecting 
our patrimony, our autonomy of government." Canon 609 simply states 
that before a monastery of cloistered nuns can be established, the 
permission of the diocesan bishop in which it will be founded and 
the permission of the Holy See are required. Any religious house, 
if it seeks to have apostolic works carried out in that house which are 
other than those for which it was founded, needs the permission or 
the local bishop. If in one of the monasteries, there was a desire 
to establish a catechetical school because of need, permission must 
be given by the local bishop. The diocesan bishop also has the right 
and duty to visit certain cloiestered monaster ies--those that are not 
affiliated with an institute of men. The canons do not say that the 
diocesan bishop has a right and duty to visit autonomous monasteries 
connected with an institute of men. The local bishop does, however, 
according to canon 630, have the right to approve confessors for au- 
tonomous cloistered monasteries. Certain autonomous monasteries, 
those not affiliated with men, have to give a financial report to the 
local ordinary. In any alienation, certain permissions of the local 
ordinary are required. The diocesan bishop, for a just reason, may 
enter the enclosure of all monasteries in his diocese. With the per- 
mission of the abbess or the prioress he can permit others to enter 
and he can also permit the nuns to leave for a time. That part of 
the code dealing with temporal goods says that the local ordinary may 
intervene in any monastery when there is proof of negligence on the 
part of the administrator of temporal goods. This can be either 


culpable negligence or non-culpable negligence. If the treasurer is 
putting the monastery in financial peril, and the bishop finds out 
about it, he can move in. If he finds out that there is honest and 
sincere, yet nevertheless, misappropriation of funds, due to a very 
complex economic world; and if he finds out that the administrator 
of the funds is making many big mistakes in the area of financial 
schemes, he can move in. 

How do these canons apply to the Order, to the nuns? The nuns 
profess obedience to the Master of the Order and it is clear from 
their constitutions that while each monastery is autonomous, the nuns 
are under the very real authority of the Master of the Order. There- 
fore they fall under the perview of canon 61*f. This is important. 
"Monasteries of nuns which are associated with an institute of men 
maintain their own order of life and governance according to the 
constitutions. Mutual rights and obligations are to be so defined 
that the association is spiritually enriching." Therefore, we do 
not fall under the perview of the next canon (615) which reads i 
"An autonomous monastery which has no other major superior beyond 
its own moderator and is not associated with any other institute of 
religious in such a way that the superior of the latter enjoys true 
power over such a monastery determined by the constitutions is com- 
mitted to the special vigilance of the diocesan bishop according to 
to the norm of law. M Consequently, the canons which apply to the 
vigilance of the bishops over monasteries mentioned in this canon , 
canon 615 of the code, do not by the common law apply to the Domini- 
can nuns' monasteries. In other words, whenever the code refers to 
the vigilance of the bishops over monasteries, it will usually sayi 
"those monasteries of canon 615. those not affected by, affiliated 
with, an institute of men." In those instances, the Dominican nuns 
are not subject to that canon. This privilege of exemption began 
with the Order 1 the nuns have always shared in this privilege, as 
they share in the broader patrimony of the Order. Even though the 
nuns are in a monastery and not a priory, lacking the mobility of 
the friars and the brothers, yet they are an intimate part directly 
connected with the Order, because a vital part of the life is contem- 
plation and prayer. All share in that. The friars who have to do 
the active preaching and teaching and studying depend day in and day 
out, not only on their own prayers, but on the faithful prayers of 
their sisters. Therefore, the nuns share with their brothers in the 
constitutions, in the governmental patrimony of the Order, in the 
spirit of the Order, and all are led by the one successor of St. 
Dominic. A vital part of the patrimony should be reflected as com- 
pletely as possible in the legislation of the nuns, the fathers and 
the brothers. Their relationship to the Master General should be 
considered in the context of their governmental spirit. This should 
be reflected in our constitutions. This governmental spirit is mutual 
and mature trust. 



Thomas Doyle, O.P. 

Since I have spoken on the legislative spirit that we have in- 
herited from St. Dominic, I would like to make some comments now on your 
Constitutions. When we look at our Constitutions we have to look at them 
objectively and free ourselves from present day encumbrances as much as 
possible. In other words, we must read them out of our Dominican spirit. 
A few of the following are just particular observations. 

The first observation concerns the question of renunciation of goods 
at solemn profession. As you know, at the time of our solemn profession, 
we have to make a renunciation of the goods that we own. In simple vows 
we lose the right of using usufruct. We lose the right of use but we do 
not lose radical ownership. At the time of solemn vows we do lose radi- 
cal ownership. Occasionally, questions come up about inheritances. 
Practically speaking, a sister's parents may tell her: "I'm leaving one 
third of my goods to each of my three children." If one of them is pre- 
paring to take solemn vows, she is faced with a possible legacy of 
$800,000.00 to $1,000,000.00. According to the Constitutions, whatever 
comes to us becomes the property of the community. Suppose the parents 
stipulate, which is not all that uncommon, that "we prefer that what we 
earn not go to the Dominican Order because they're not our children but 
that this go to our child. She may want to leave her community some 
day; her community may want to leave her. We don't want her left without 
security." How would she fulfill the wishes of her parents as well as 
the wishes of our law? This may be an exceptional case but it does occur 
and the superior may want to know how to answer this question. I bring 
this up because of a practical case in which a personal acquaintance 
called me up and asked me to help him with some canonical advice. It 
seems his wife's sister was going to take solemn vows in a contemplative 
community in the San Francisco area (not the Dominicans). Her father 
had left her about $800,000.00. He was a judge and he made it very 
clear that he did not intend his money to go to the monastery. It was 
not out of disrespect; he simply wanted it to go to his children. In 
the event that the daughter left the monastery, he wanted her to be 
taken care of. They finally solved the problem by putting the entire 
amount that she had, and what would accrue to it, in a trust, leaving 
her sister and brother as trustees. (When something is in trust, the 
person does not own it; the trustees legally own the goods.) She was 
able to make proviso that each year a certain amount of the income 
from that trust would go to the monastery and in the event of her de- 
parture she would regain ownership of this. It would pass from the 
trustees to her. Or if she remained twenty-five years in the monas- 
tery, the capital fund would be turned over to their corporation. 
That is one possible arrangement. This problem does come up more fre- 
quently now than it did before because parents often see the fluctuation 
that is going on in religious life. It is more common with apostolic 
religious. In the few cases involving cloistered nuns that I have dealt 
with there has been less reluctance because there appears to have been 
much more stability in the cloistered life over the past ten or fifteen 
years. I have heard parents be very blunt. "I don't want my daughter 
to enter this Order because I don't like what they've done; I don't 
like what they've been doing. But it's her life and her will and I 
can't stop her. But I'm going to make sure she's provided for. And 
if she won't go along with this, then I'm going to change things around 
and fix it for her so that she is provided for, whether she likes it or 
not." That is an unusual situation but something we should be aware of. 


Th e next area of importance is the relationship of the Dominican Nuns 
to the local Ordinary. As I have said, it is clear in your Constitutions 
that the nuns are subject to the Master of the Order or his juridically 
appointed representatives. Number 196 in your Constitutions, Paragraph one 
says: "Monasteries are subject to the jurisdiction of either the Order or 
the local Ordinary." Now it seems to me that this ambiguity has been re- 
moved by the common law of the Church, which says that the "either/or" 
applies either to those monasteries which are attached to a community of 
men or those which are not. Your monasteries are so attached. Therefore, 
I would question whether it is even necessary to mention the jurisdiction 
of the local Ordinary in the Constitutions. Paragraph two states: "Mon- 
asteries which are under the jurisdiction of the Order are subject to the 
local Ordinary only in cases determined by law." I would suggest that 
perhaps it would be more accurate to say only in cases determined by the 
common law of the Church. I would also suggest that in enacting your own 
statutes, whether constitutions or directories, that you not add any law 
that is not needed or not required. Remember that law is supposed to 
help people and not hinder them. Excessive law can cause one to miss the 
forest for the trees. It is, in a sense, like having a beautiful garden 
of flowers and shrubs and fearing that crows, buzzards and other birds 
are going to swoop down and attack the flowers or the little animals that 
live in the garden. So the owner starts putting up all kinds of scare- 
crows, more scarecrows than are needed to take care of birds which might 
not live in that region anyway. Pretty soon the garden is turned ugly 
because its growth has been prevented rather than aided by all the scarecrows. 

Number 246 of the Constitutions is also pertinent, especially Para- 
graph three which deals with the acceptance of Mass legacies. Number two 
states: "It pertains particularly to the regular superior to give permission 
to accept the obligation of a legacy or of foundation Masses with the written 
consent of the local Ordinary." The canon in the Code states that the proper 
Ordinary gives permission for the acceptance of Mass foundations and lega- 
cies found in Numbers 1304 and 1308. This means that the supreme modera- 
tor is the one who has the right of reduction and the right to give per- 
mission for acceptance. That would be the Master of the Order. 
Theoretically, it is possible to include in your Constitutions the local 
Ordinary with his written consent, which might be more practical on a 
day by day, case by case basis. However, this is another instance in 
which the Constitutions should be more in keeping with the overall spirit 
of the Code, which is to use the privilege of exemption and work from 
your relationship with the Master of the Order rather than with the local 
Ordinary. It also states in the same number, Number 246, Paragraph four: 
"It pertains to the local Ordinary together with the regular superior 
(that is, the Master) to approve the annual economic report of the ad- 
ministration of the monastery." This canon is not necessary in your 
Constitutions because you as Dominican nuns are not subject to the local 
Ordinary according to Canon 615, but rather to the Master of the Order. 
The funds that the monasteries have charge over are really subject to the 
Master of the Order, who is our proper Ordinary. 

On the matter of elections, there is a requirement in the common law 
of the Church that states that the local Ordinary or his representative 


be present at the elections of superiors. But this only pertains, 
strictly speaking, to those monasteries not connected with an institute. 
Therefore it is not required by the common law of the Church that the 
local Ordinary be present and preside over the election of superiors 
in the monasteries of our nuns. It is interesting that the Code states 
that the local Ordinary presides but he does not have the right to confirm 
or cassate. The Master General does. So why should the local Ordinary 
be present at all? The following is simply my thinking on the matter. 
For ecclesiological reasons I think it might be good to have him or his 
representative present for part of the election, for the Mass or one of 
the ceremonial parts, to indicate the relationship of our nuns to the 
local Church, especially through prayer. However, it should be clear that 
this is not required for constitutional validity. Again legislative pur- 
pose has become confused here. The real, canonical reason for the presi- 
dence of the Master of the Order is to indicate the existence of a legal, 
juridical connection between the elected superior and himself, as well as 
his ability to recognize and discern the overall needs of the Order. 
This is not something that falls on the shoulders of the local Ordinary. 

Number 246 Paragraph five refers to the temporal administration of 
the monastery. It states that the local Ordinary may have vigilance over 
the financial affairs if there is negligence. Now it would probably be 
wiser to defer to the head of the local Church in cases of administrative 
negligence because it is alluded to in the common law of the Church, and 
also because he is closer to the scene than Father General is. It would 
be easier for him to intervene and assist the community than the General. 

In Number 262 it states that the local Ordinary and others can pro- 
pose persons for election. I question the need of the head of the local 
Church to propose persons for election in our communities. I may misun- 
derstand this number. I guess I also have a problem with the very idea 
of proposing people for election. I do not think that this is in our 
tradition. I think that the concept of maturity and common trust should 
be left very much alive; we are supposed to allow the Holy Spirit to 
guide our choice of superiors. And that takes a tremendous amount of 
trust and risk. Therefore, with all due respect to the framers of your 
Constitutions, I question the need for anyone to have the authority to 
propose persons for election. If Father Master were to propose someone 
for election in one of our communities, we naturally, by emotional in- 
stinct, would defer to that person whether he or she were the best person 
or not. This whole passage has what I believe to be a negative effect on 
the elucidation of our legislative spirit in the practicalities of the 

What I am going to talk about next is the whole question of dis- 
missal, exclaustration and exit, and then some questions on the use 
and abuse of temporal goods. But first I want to mention again and 
reiterate the fact that when there is not need for deference to the 
local Ordinary in our particular legislation, it is in keeping with our 
privilege of exemption, our legislative spirit and the spirit of the 
common law of the Church, that we do not defer. We could use wisely the 
very wide-ranging spirit of dispensation and delegation that is present 
in our Constitutions and in the general law of the Church. Every power 


that the leader has he does not have to keep to himself. Using this 
principle of subsidiarity, spiritual equality from the People of God 
model, he can delegate. Certain powers can be delegated to the prior- 
esses of your monasteries, to the superiors of our provinces, and so on, 
just as the Holy Father frequently delegates powers reserved to himself 
to the local bishops. Up until the new Code just about every dispens- 
ing power was concentrated in the Pope. When the bishops went to Rome 
for their regular visits, they received a recharge of delegation to make 
all kinds of dispensations. Otherwise, the bureaucracy would become a 
completely entangled mess and the entire Church would perhaps grind to a 
halt, were it not for the spirit moving within us, giving us these methods 
of simplifying and streamlining our legislation. 

Now with regard to exit and dismissal from religious life: In the 
past fifteen or twenty years there has been the possibility of what is 
called a leave of absence for religious. The Holy See in the late 1960 's 
issued legislation making it possible for proper competent superiors, in 
some instances the major superior of the entire Order, to grant a leave 
of absence for a person to be away from the community to discern a voca- 
tion. This was usually a situation in which the person was not sure what 
he or she wanted to do. A leave of absence did not alter the individual's 
juridical status in the community at all. A nun could be away from her 
community for a year or two on a leave or an extended leave, but she was 
still bound by the vows, still had the obligations of the Order and still 
enjoyed voting privileges, both passive and active. And so people began 
to examine this legislation more closely. Finally it was determined, as 
had been argued by a number of canonists, that the idea of a leave be 
dropped. (it is still in use, but very little.) Instead, what is pro- 
vided for in the law is the notion of exclaustration, even for a short 
period of time. In the common law the bishop is allowed to give permis- 
sion for egress , that is, departure from the cloister, for periods of 
time. The spirit of this common law seems to be that it does not refer 
to a leave of absence in order to discern vocation, but rather to remain- 
ing outside the monastery for a reasonable period of time for a greater 
good: to take care of a sick parent, to undergo extended medical treat- 
ment, or whatever. If it is necessary to leave the monastery for an 
extended period of time for one reason or another, not necessarily to 
determine vocation, an exclaustration is really more in keeping with the 
spirit of the law. Why? Because with an exclaustration the sister is 
under the local Ordinary's jurisdiction, as are all Catholics. She either 
takes off or keeps the habit. (I believe your Constitutions state that 
you lay aside the habit in exclaustration.) If she wants to live in an- 
other house, she is exclaustrated from her monastery. If she wants to 
live in another religious house and continue to wear the habit, that is 
also possible. She loses active and passive voice for that period of 
time during which she is outside of the cloister; this is as it should be. 
Since she is not part of the life, she is not cognizant of the needs, so 
when it comes to the question of voting or making determinations on su- 
periors and needs, it is only equitable that she not participate. To 
make sure that this happens the law writes it in. 

Who can grant exclaustration? For cloistered nuns the Holy See 
grants any and all indults. At the present time the Apostolic Nuncio has 
the faculty to grant an indult of exclaustration for a period of up to, 


but not extending beyond, three years. When petitioning for an exclaus- 
tration, the superior should include the petition of the sister who wishes 
the exclaustration. This should indicate why she wishes the exclaustra- 
tion as well as the votum or the opinion of the superior and mention of 
the opinion of the council. This is not, strictly speaking, required by 
law but it helps. 

There is another kind of exclaustration called "imposed". In this 
situation, the person does not want exclaustration but gets it anyway. 
This is what canonists call an administrative act. It is not a punish- 
ment for a sister when an exclaustration is imposed on her. It is an 
administrative act by the competent superior, and in this case, the Holy 
See. (I think the Apostolic Nuncio has the necessary faculties.) The 
Order would not want to grant imposed exclaustrations . We would want 
that to come from the Holy See, unless it were an emergency situation. 
Because it is an administrative act of the Holy See, it is not subject 
to an appeal. If, for instance, the General had the power to grant an 
imposed exclaustration, because it is imposed , the sister would have the 
right to appeal his administrative act to the higher superior which would 
be the Holy See. But when an administative act is done by the Holy See 
there is no appeal. However, in order to impose exclaustration there 
must be a proportionately grave reason. Now this can be subjectively 
grave for the person or the community. Let's say, for instance, that a 
sister just cannot stay home. She is out for one reason or another and 
it becomes apparent that she really is not that well suited for life in 
a monastery, but she does not want to seek dispensation from her vows. 
The superior discerns that perhaps what she needs is some time to work 
out some problems. In this case equity says she is "out there" and she 
is supposed to be in the convent. She is "out there" without any per- 
missions beyond the permission for an extended stay from the local 
bishop. Perhaps for the good of all, because she may appear at election 
time and insist on her right to vote, it would be better to impose ex- 
claustration. This is for the good of the community. It also may have 
a good effect on the sister. Do you remember Juan de Torquemada? He 
was a great Dominican who worked in the Inquisition and who developed 
some marvelous principles of dialogic interfacing. The first one is: 
Get their attention. Once you get a person's attention you will not 
have to repeat yourself. Sometimes what appear to be punitive acts can 
indicate to individuals the seriousness of their position and help them 
to think more clearly. This is being confronted in a sense by the Church, 
by the law, in what should be a sensitive and loving manner. The com- 
munity does not have to clobber a sister over the head with an imposed 
exclaustration, but it should indicate why . And perhaps that will jarr 
her into thinking a little bit more about her whole situation. Before 
asking for an imposed exclaustration, charity would dictate that every 
reasonable means be used. Remember that in a community the good of the 
community must be given equal consideration to the good of the individual. 
Superiors cannot always let their emotions get in the way, saying: 
"Sister has some problems but I understand so we don't want to do anything." 
Perhaps the good of the community, the emotional well-being, demands that 
some steps be taken. 


With regard to the question of transfer: The transfer from one Domin- 
ican monastery to another on a temporary basis is provided for adequately 
in your Constitutions. The transfer from one monastery to another is pro- 
vided for also in the Code of Canon Law (from one monastery of the same 
order to another). Now what about transferring from a Dominican monastery 
to another religious institute? Let me backtrack briefly and say that the 
law provides for different kinds of institutes of consecrated life. Religious 
institutes are a specific kind: they are those that take public vows. They 
may be called orders or congregations, and in some instances, societies. The 
societies of apostolic life are another kind of institute of consecrated life. 
Their members may make private bonds or promises of some sort. Then there 
are secular institutes. Those are the basic categories. We Dominicans fall 
into "religious institutes" because we take vows which are different from 
promises or other kinds of bonds. So to go from a monastery to another 
religious institute, for example the Carmelites or a congregation of Domin- 
ican Sisters, does not require the permission of the Holy See. You need 
not defer to the Holy See in your Constitutions because the common law does 
not demand this except in the case of a transfer from a secular institute 
to a religious institute. You should only defer to the Holy See in those 
instances when it is needed, applying the principle of subsidiarity and 
mutual trust. To transfer to a secular institute or a society of apostolic 
life from a religious institute, or to transfer from one of these to a re- 
ligious institute, the permission of the Holy See is required and its in- 
structions are to be followed. For a nun to become a member of a secular 
institute or a society without vows she must go through the Holy See. For 
her to become a sister of another religious institute she does not need to 
go to the Holy See. What is required is the permission of the supreme 
moderators. That would be the superior general of the one institute and the 
Master General of our Order. In the case of nuns, the consent of the respec- 
tive councils is also required. In your Constitutions, Number 179, it states 
that the permission of the Holy See is necessary. It seems to me, however, 
unless I can be proven wrong, that this permission is superfluous. 

Next I would like to speak about dismissal. This has been a bigger 
problem in the past several years, more so perhaps for active apostolic 
institutes than for the nuns. But it is a problem which can cause some 
concern and so should be understood rightly. One dimension of the prob- 
lem that I have frequently seen in my work at the Nunciature is a dis- 
missal that is effected without the right of defense accorded to the sister. 
A member of a religious institute cannot be dismissed because of illness, 
whether physical or mental. A person may be excluded from final profes- 
sion if she concealed an illness at the time she entered, but if a sister 
becomes mentally ill, she must be provided for in charity and cannot be 
dismissed, cannot be put on the street. I have seen numerous instances 
in which sisters have been dismissed and given very little wherewith to 
provide for themselves afer they have been put out on the street. Three 
or four hundred dollars is not very much to give a sister today. It costs 
nearly that much to fly from Washington, D.C. to Hartford. If a person has 
been in a monastery or convent for many, many years, the Order does not owe 
her anything and the law states that she does not have a claim on anything. 
But it also states that she must be treated with equity and charity, and 
since these are supposed to be the basic motivations of religious, they 
take precedence over the letter of the law. There is such a thing as 


automatic dismissal. The canon in the common law states that a person is 
automatically dismissed for two reasons only. One is notorious defection 
from the faith and the other is marriage, even civil marriage, without, of 
course, dispensation. In this case, which I think has been more common 
with men, the moderator and his council come together and gather proofs, 
that is, a statement of the case: "Father So and So has attempted marriage." 
Then they declare him dismissed. It is a declaration of what has already 
occurred. What is more common, however, is dismissal in general, a canoni- 
cal process. 

Dismissal then is an act which follows upon a juridic process. Dis- 
missal is the result of proving something in this process. It is a conclu- 
sion that is reached by the competent superiors that for the good of the 
person and the good of the community, even the good of the Church, he or she 
is to be dismissed. First, there has to be some evidence, not hypothetical 
evidence, but some alleged evidence which consists of something written or 
something in a sworn document, not hearsay. It does not have to be concrete 
proof, moral certitude, but can read something like this: "I understand 
that Sister So and So, when I am giving her permission to go to see her 
doctor every week, is actually attending a meeting of the local Communist 
Party and that she is fomenting revolution. She thinks that there is pos- 
sibility of a dialogue between Christians and Marxists. So she is going to 
these meetings and she may even intend to join the Party." If the allegation 
can be proved, the superior must confront the sister. Suppose a sister comes 
to the prioress and indicates that this is possibly happening. The prior- 
ess must confront the accused in writing and/or in the presence of two wit- 
nesses. She must tell her that according to the common law of the Church and 
our Constitutions, if what is alleged is proven to be true, she can be dis- 
missed unless she ceases and desists. Then the prioress gives the reasons 
for the dismissal, quoting both law and fact. This must be completely, 
clearly and honestly expressed. Then she has to inform the accused that she 
has the right of defense which does not exclude the right of canonical coun- 
sel. I would suggest that whenever there is going to be a process of dis- 
missal that this always be definitely considered: that the individual be 
given the opportunity to consult with a canonist, an objective canonist, 
someone from the outside. The first warning is then issued. Let's take a 
more practical case, that of a sister who leaves the monastery and does not 
come back and you know that she is not going to come back. She is out liv- 
ing and working in New York City; she has made enough money to buy a car, 
she has taken off the habit and she does not go to Mass on Sunday. She is 
certainly not going to come back to have the warnings read to her; so the 
first thing for the prioress to do is write her a letter and send it 
"Certified, return requested". It should say: "I order you in virtue of 
obedience to return to the monastery within three weeks." It should spell 
out the rule and give her the right of defense and some names of canon law- 
yers. The law demands that at least fifteen days elapse from the time she 
receives this first warning. If nothing happens, then a second warning is 
issued which says basically what the first said. Hopefully, this will 
shake her a bit and she will call and talk about it a little. Maybe she 
will realize that she is giving up a tremendous amount. So she won't come 
in but she will talk on the phone. The law requires only two warnings. 
There is no real time allotted in the common law after the second warning 
but common sense dictates that one or two more warnings be issued at the 
most. Two is all that is required by the law. If, however, after these 


warnings have been issued it appears that she is incorrigible ar 
be proven, and if there is reason for dismissal, then the act i 
that is, a written record is made of the whole process. It is 
the prioress and by the notary who must be present to notarize 
signature. This should be sent, not to the bishop, as it stata 
Constitutions, but to the Master of the Order, who is your pro T 
The canons state that these acts are to be studied in a collegi 
the competent superior and his council. He must have at least 
of the council present. What does a "collegial manner" mean? 
they come together, physically present together, in order to sr 
A secret vote on the matter is taken and there must be a majori 
dismissal. Now the process goes on. The law requires that th*- 
the dismissed, be notified in writing; she must also be notifi 
has a right of appeal to the Holy See. The law states that fc 
Right Institutes, the decree of dismissal must be ratified by 
After the General has done all this he has to send it to the C 
for Religious, which ratifies the decree and then returns it tc 
He in turn notifies the local superior who notifies the dismis - 
dismissed has further appeal. Within ten days of notification s 
peal the decision to the Sacred Congregation. If the Sacred C 
ratifies the appeal, strictly speaking and according to the lav; 
has one more appeal. This is to the Apostolic Signatura which 
the procedure of the case. So there are about five steps altog 
is this so long, drawn out and complicated? Because what is ma 
is the according of the rights of the individual. We know that: 
ture and weakness can get involved in this process a little too' 
also insures that one is not "drummed out of the corps" before 
have been given to come back. The process for dismissal in ten- 
is basically the same as that for solemn or perpetual vows. Th- 
is that there is less gravity required for dismissal. 

A few comments on temporal goods: Temporal goods are any 5 "" 
is movable, sellable, destroyable. The Church needs temporal gx 
order to survive. We as religious have always needed them. W> 
obligation to use them wisely because they, in a sense, were g 
by the laity, and we have something to return to them. We ha T r. 
to them a sense of responsibility in our use of our buildings, 
and all the rest. We have to use these things wisely for whar 
of us, that is, the execution of the purpose of our lives. Ir 
the nuns it is prayer and contemplation and co-operation in sz 
the preachers; and in the case of the friars, it is the more a 
preaching, studying, parish life, whatever the case may be. T 
mension of our obligation regarding temporal goods is the comp 
those who have left or been dismissed. A sister who has left 
been dismissed lawfully does not have an automatic claim on ou 
However, charity and equity demand that we do something to hel 
the way, even for a prolonged period of time, if, all things b 
she is trying her best to support herself. It may be that the 
be on perpetual subsidy from the community. I have known bish 
supported for years and years priests who have left. They sup;; 
not out of strict justice, but out of charity, which is more in 
How much should this subsidy be? I think there should be a re? 
praisal of the cost of renting an apartment, the cost of buying 


the cost of vocational testing. If a sister leaves the monastery after 
being there twenty years and knows only some domestic tasks, and has no 
other skills, we have an obligation to try to help her to realign her life 
after the many years of service that have been given. 

A second big area with regard to temporal goods is alienation. This 
causes no end of problems. An alienation is the transfer of title in man- 
ner, way, shape or form, strictly speaking, of ecclesiastical goods from 
the monastery to another owner. "Ecclesiastical goods" is a technical term. 
This refers to goods owned by the ecclesiastical corporation, by the monas- 
tery. By law all goods we religious receive become ecclesiastical goods. 
If someone's brother-in-law gives her a car and it is accepted by the mon- 
astery, that becomes ecclesiastical goods. Money, however, is not an eccles- 
iastical good. It is a barter, a medium of exchange. Money becomes eccles- 
iastical goods when by the consent of the competent authority it is fixed. 
Let's say someone gives the monastery $500,000.00. The superior and her 
council meet and say: "What are we going to do with this?" It is money; 
they can do whatever they want. They can build a new roof, they can buy 
needed cars, they can redo the kitchen. What they decide is to vote in 
chapter and in council to set this money aside as a special endowment fund 
for sisters who may have to leave the community for an extended period of 
time so that the interest will be used. This then becomes ecclesiastical 
goods. It cannot be alienated or tampered with without a certain number 
of permissions. I will talk about that in a moment. 

Alienation also means any transaction that is going to jeopardize or 
make less stable the stable patrimony of the monastery. For instance, mort- 
gage is a kind of alienation. Entering into a bond arrangement, taking out 
a loan or a long term lease, any arrangement whereby the monastery may tend 
to lose something is called an alienation. This is important because to 
enter into any of these things requires a certain process, and certain per- 
missions are required if the amount is within that which is set by the con- 
ference of bishops for the country. In our country it is a million dollars. 
Anything under a million dollars requires the permission of the particular 
law. I do not think your Constitutions refer to alienations. Let's say 
the community has this $500,000.00 endowment fund and they want to change it. 
They have dire needs. A hurricane has struck and they need the money to keep 
the monastery going. How do they get hold of it? They get the money by 
going through the proper procedure which is to ask permission of the Master 
of the Order. He is the superior. That should be written into your Consti- 
tutions, or you may wish to write in that the prioress with her council can 
spend up to a certain amount. That depends upon particular legislation. 

Now let's talk in terms of a million dollars or more. The community 
wants to build a new monastery like the LaCrosse sisters are doing. They 
have a place in Washington and they want to sell the one in LaCrosse. 
Hopefully, they are going to get more than a million dollars for that; so 
in order to sell that monastery they need the permission of the Holy See. 
Otherwise the sale is canonically invalid and, strictly speaking, can be 
challenged in the civil courts of the United States by an interested party 
which could reverse the canonical action and the legal action. (This has 
been done in the past.) Suppose, for example, that Father Master wants 
to sell the Dominican House of Studies; he enters into an agreement with 


the Moonies and he sells it to the Moonies for five million dollars. We 
are all in a quandary until someone says: "Wait a minute; did he get the 
proper permission of the Holy See to sell our monastery, to sell the 
House of Studies?" We look into it and the answer is No. He and the 
General Council voted to sell it and sold it. So three or four of us 
take a suit before the District Court of the District of Columbia. We 
allege that he acted beyond his competence. According to the precedent 
set in some past civil suits, what they probably would do is take a look 
at our law because we are a hierarchical Church. They would say: "Did 
he obey their own law?" It is obviously proven that he did not obey our 
own law, either common law or particular law. Then they would say: "This 
sale is invalid. The Master General owes this House of Studies five and a 
half million dollars." The civil court will say that, when we go beyond 
our law in the United States. I do not know what they do in Italy or Ire- 
land but that is what they have done over here. So we do need this permis- 
sion from the Holy See. 

How does one get this permission? By sending a petition to the Sacred 
Congregation indicating the nature of the alienation. If a community wishes 
to borrow money for improvement of their monastery, they must indicate what 
the collateral is, if anything. Even if it is just an individual's good 
name, they have to get this permission because if he or she defaults, the 
community will pay the price. Suppose, for example, that the chapter and 
council vote to sell the monastery. They get two or three appraisals, or 
one good trusted appraisal, and they indicate that amount to the Sacred 
Congregation. What the Sacred Congregation has been doing in practice is 
to ask for the favorable opinion of the local Ordinary. This is not re- 
quired by law for us, but the Holy See has been requesting it. I think if 
we were to challenge this we might win but it is not that important. In a 
sense, by giving his opinion, the local Ordinary can act as a stop-gap pro- 
tector against impetuous action by superiors with regard to nuns. Since 
you are cloistered all the time, he may be able to help make sure that you 
get the best possible advice and assistance. This whole package, then, is 
sent to the Holy See and ordinarily the permission for alienation is granted. 
The tax charged by the Holy See is insignificant compared to the amounts 
being dealt with these days. I saw one case in which the amount was in the 
millions and the tax was only fifteen dollars. They would usually add at 
least another zero to that, which is still not very much. 

Essentially that is the extent of what I want to speak about regarding 
our government and our Constitutions. I purposely did not get into the vows 
and regular life because this is not my competence. I was asked to talk a- 
bout the Dominican spirit. In summary, I would say this: We honor the mem- 
ory of our founder first by understanding the legislative, governmental 
spirit of the Order in all of its facets and by realizing and accepting the 
fact that this legal patrimony exists for the good of the community and for 
the good of the Church. Its purpose is to enable us as Dominicans to do 
what we were founded to do, to have a certain elasticity, a mobility, a free- 
dom to grow and to adapt in keeping with the needs of the Order. We exist 
and function in the context of the local Church. However, we are not being 
disrespectful or disloyal or disobedient by appealing to all of the aspects 
of our juridical patrimony, including exemption. We are maintaining this 
privilege of exemption which has been given to us by the Vicar of Christ 


in order to have this mobility for the good of the entire Church. There- 
fore, I would hope that consideration be given to some of the suggestions 
I have made. As I said, I could well be wrong in ray interpretation of 
existing law since this is my first venture into your Constitutions. 
Nevertheless, we help ourselves and help the local Church by utilizing to 
the full all that we have in our law and in our legislative tradition. . 




General Outline 

I. Dominican Legislative Spirit: Unique Features 
II. Some Aspects of the Spirit of Law for Religious 

A. Ecclesiological considerations 

B. The Mind of the Holy Father and the Good of the Church 

C. The New Code of Canon Law: A Shift to the Particular 

III. Exempt Religious and the Local Church 

A. The Local Ordinary: Some Principles 

B. The Purpose of Religious in the Local Church 

IV. Some Observations on the Dominican Nuns' Constitutions 

A. Particular Observations on select numbers 

B. Some Questions about the role of the Local Ordinary 

C. Some Particular Questions of possible importance 

1. Exit and Dismissal from religious life 

2. Questions concerning temporal goods 

V. Some Remarks on the Statutes of the Conference of Nuns 

A. The Dominican concept of representative government 

B. Possible Practical considerations 



A. Governmental Models for 12th Century Religious Communities 

At the time of the Order's inception, the predominant govern- 
mental model was the monarchy. This model was adopted by rel- 
igious communities such as the Benedictine Monks. A variation 
was found with the canons-regular whose governmental model was 
similar to an aristocracy. 

1. Power was concentrated in individuals and flowed from the 
top down 

2. Assemblies of the members were infrequent and when they oc- 
curred were an exercise of executive power 

3. The governmental model suited the needs and purpose of the 
religious of the time 

4. Stability, manual labor, common liturgy of the hours and 
Mass were foremost in importance 

B. The Dominican Purpose 

Dominican adopted elements from the monastic and regular life- 
styles to suit his overall purpose which was the preaching of 
sacred truth in a sometimes hostile environment. He was both a 
very practical and fearless man and an excellent political sys- 
tems theorist. 

1. He was influenced by the framework of Premontre for he had 
been a canon regular himself. He was also influenced by the 
structures of the Military Orders whose method of electing 
superiors is akin to ours 

2. He chose the Rule of St. Augustine as the model of the way 
of life. Yet this was not a practical governmental frame- 
work or blueprint. 

C. Mobility, freedom from demands of manual labor, opportunity for 
study were most important. 

1. "The Frairs were from the first and still are canons. Sec- 
ondly, Humbert of Roman, repeating the tradition of the Order 
stated that St. Dominic chose the Rule of Sy. Augustine be- 
cause its terms were sufficiently vague to allow the special 
type of life, of study and preaching, which he planned for 
his followers, to be lived without infringing any clause of 
it." (Galbraith, p. 34) 

2. It seems that this type of life would not be served well by 
either a monarchical or aristocratic governmental model. 


Representative Government 

The concept of a representative form of government is premised 
on a re-allotment of the source and use of power. From this 
come other practical conclusions: law-making, method of hav- 
ing leadership come to power, relationship of superior to in- 

1. The assembly of the brethren is the source of power. The 
chapters were and are the legislative assemblies ... the most 
important governmental feature of the Order 

2. The chapters are composed of representatives of the commun- 
ities. Universal suffrage has never been a feature of our 

3. The representatives to the chapters enjoy power given to them 
in trust by those whom they represent. 

4. In chapter, representatives are equal: prior and socius have 
equal voice. The provincial too is equal to the others 

5. Representatives (captiulars) enjoy freedom of choice in vot- 
ing on issues and for superiors etc. They are not bound to 
follow instructions from their constituencies. 

The Nature of the Superior 

The role of the superior and the status accorded him in the Orde 
is also a unique feature in that it more closely resembles the 
ecclesiological ideal of membership in the Body of Christ. 

1. Superiors are all elected 

2. There is a set period of time during which the superior acts 

3. The superior's power comes from the assembly. He is to ex- 
ecute the wishes of the constitution and the friars. Offic- 
ials are servants of the body. 

4. "When he laid down his office he returned to his normal work 
and position, just as if he had never held office at all. In 
other words there was an absolute equality between all prof- 
essed friars. Precedence was taken according to seniority of 
profession, but as far as one can judge, ability alone gave 
promotion and fame." (Galbraith, p. 5) 

5. Perhaps this arrangement for the superior indicated St. Dom- 
inic's appraisal of the monarchical system and its usefulness 
in helping to promote the gospel 

6 . Leadership did not depend on birth or social rank 


F. Maturity of the Dominican Vocation 

•The independance of the frairs as well as the need for per- 
sonal discipline point to St. Dominic's esteem for the maturity 
of his followers. This is also obvious in thr trust placed in 
the individuals themselves in regard to the governmental process. 

1. Possibility of continued renewal of Dominican legislation. 
The constitutions are not definitvely approved by a higher 
authority. The friars themselves are responsible for an as- 
sessment of the needs of the Order vis-a-vis the needs of the 
Church and making appropriate changes. 

2. The fundamental spirit of the Order and the Rule of St. Augus- 
time are presumed to be uppermost in mind in changing legis- 

3. Obedience is made to the person of the superiors according to 
the constitutions and rule. The friar and his superior are in 
a position of mutual trust. Grace speaks through persons and 
not through the law itself. The law serves the community. 

4. Trust: the community elects representatives to deliberate, 
elect officials and draw up legislation on its behalf. The 
representatives are not bound to the consensus of the commun- 
ity but expected to act and decide maturely. 

5. Dispensation: Dominicans are not tied to the law but in elect- 
ing a superior, they know that he has power to dispense when 
it will benefit a friar. 


A. Law is based on the nature of the Church 

1. "People of God" — a fusion of the two realities of the 
spiritual and the human. There are not two churches but one. 
It is hierarchical in its basic structure. 

2. Fundamental spiritual equality of all believers 

"For by communicating His Spirit, Christ mystically con- 
stitutes as his Body those brothers of his who are called 
together from every nation. In that body the life of 
Christ is communicated to those who believe and who, through 
the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ 
in his passion and glorification." (LG 7) 


3. Diversity of members and functions. The building up of 
Christ's Body... His Church, depends on the acceptance in 
faith of different kinds of roles, ministries, functions, 
duties and powers but all in the context of spiritual eq- 

"Christ's faithful are those who, since they are incorpor- 
ated into Christ through baptism, are constituted the people 
of God. For this reason they participate in their own way 
in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ." 
(canon 204) 

4. Religious life is not part of the hierarchical structure of 
the Church (canon 207) . It intimately pertains to the life 
and holiness of the Church. Forms of religious life and the 
various aspects of living the religious life are approved by 
the hierarchy of the Church. (LG 45) 

B. The Holy Father's Concern for Religious Life 

Pope John Paul II has manifested his real concern for the state of 
religious life throughout the world but especially in the United 
States. This concern begins with the state of the religious life 
among the apostolic Orders and other institutes. 

1. The special commission to study religious life was enacted 
to determine the actual state of religious life in the USA. 

2. The essential elements apply to all religious communities in 
part and to apostolic institutes in particular. They are drawn 
from the teaching of Vatican Council II and the Code of Canon 

C. The New Code of Canon Law: A Shift to the Particular 

1. One of the principles of the new code is that the the Church 

as People of God. This shifts the burden of responsibility for 
practical life in the Church from centralized authority to the 
local church. The principles of subsidiarity grows out of this 
sense of the Church. 

2. There is a marked reduction of particular detail in the Code, 
leaving many items to particular legislation. 

3. It is not enough to simply acknowledge this. The principle is 
to be applied in the writing of constitutions. Simplicity and 
subsidiarity must be marked by trust. 

3. Institutes are also asked to return to the spirit of the founder 


This does not imply a romantic or naive escapism but an 
honest effort to determine how this spirit spoke through 
legislation and norms in the beginning and how today we 
can similarly respond with our own legislation 

4. The Church's concern for the patrimony of institutes 

"The whole patrimony of an institute must be faithfully 
preserved by all. This patrimony is comprised of the 
intentions of the founders, of all that the competent 
ecclesiastical authority has approved concerning the nat- 
ure, purpose, spirit and character of the institute, and 
of its sound traditions." (canon 578) 

"A true autonomy of life, especially governance, is recog- 
nized for each institute. This autonomy means that each 
institute has its own discipline in the Church and can pre- 
serve whole and entire the patrimony described in c. 578. 

Local ordinaries have the responsibility of preserving and 
safeguarding this autonomy." (canon 586) 

5. Some aspects of the Dominican Patrimony 
-our governmental tradition and spirit 

-the intellectual life: preaching and study 
-exemption from the local ordinaries 

6. Developing particular legislation: this is a difficult 
process since it demands not only careful study of the pur- 
pose of each norm or law, but an in-depth knowledge of the 
overall spirit of both the general law and the constitutions 
of the institute. Our particular legislation should respond 
to the spirit of St. Dominic, found in the earliest constit- 
utions . 


A. The principle of exemption has not been dropped 

1. LG 4 5 states that the Pope can exempt religious from the 
local ordinaries and can also entrust them to the care of 
proper patriarchal authorities 

2. Canon 591 restates the matter of exemption 

3. Exemption is technically a privilege. Therefore those com- 
munities which were exempt under the 1917 Code remain exempt 
unless the privilege has been expressly revoked (canon 4) 

B. Religious, even cloistered and exempt religious, live out their 
vocation and their apostolate in the local Church which is the 


diocese. The diocesan bishop is the head of the local church 
and in a sense, the vicar of Christ there. Consequently there 
is a relationship of mutual respect and responsibiluty between 
the two. .. religious institutes and the local bishop 
Exemption is principally applied to the internal governance 
and life of the institute. It does not turn to the local ord- 
inary as its "ordinary." 

1. The local ordinary has a responsibility over all religious 
institues for matters which touch on the care of souls or 
the wider church as well as matter fundamental to the life 
of the Church. (CD 35, 3, 4 and ES 25-29) 
Canons which touch the relationship of our Nuns to the Ordinary 

1. C. 586, 2 

2. C. 609: The permission of the diocesan bishop and Holy See 

is required for the establishment of a cloistered 
monastery of nuns. 

3. C. 612: Permission of bishop required is to be used for 

apostolic works other than those it was founded for! 

4. C. 615: "If an autonomous monastery has no major superior 

other than its own moderator, and is not associated)! 
with any institute of religious in such a way that 
the superior of that institute has over the monastery 
a real authority determined by the constitutions, i 
is entrusted, in accordance with the norms of law, 
the special vigilance of the diocesan bishop" 

5. C. 6 28,2: The diocesan bishop has the right and duty to visit 

those cloistered monasteries mentioned in c . 615. 

6. C. 6 30,3: The local ordinary has the right to approve the con 

f ssors of cloistered monasteries (of nuns) . 

7. C. 6 37: The autonomous monasteries mentioned in c . 615 are fa 

render a financial accounting to the local ordinary 1 
once a year. 

8. C. 638,4: The written permission of the local ordinary is nec^ 

essary for alienations in monasteries mentioned in 

c. 615. |j| 

9. C.667,4: The diocesan bishop may, for a just reason, enter 

the enclosure of all monasteries in his diocese. Alsjll 
with the permission of the abbess he can permit other 
persons to enter and permit nuns to leave for a time. 



10. C. 1279: The local Ordinary may intervene when there is 

negligence on the part of the administrator of 
temporal goods. 

11. C. 1287: When goods are not lawfully withdrawn from the 

power of governance of the diocesan bishop, the 
administrators are bound to render an account of 
their administration to the local ordinary. 

12. C. 1308,4 The diocesan bishop has the power to reduce the 

obligations of Mass legacies because of the dim- 
inution of income in cloistered monasteries. 

E. The application of these canons to Dominican Nuns 

1. The nuns profess obedience to the Master of the Order (cf. 
n. 22, SII) 

2. It is clear from the constitutions that the autonomous mon- 
asteries of Dominican nuns are under the real authority of 
the Master of the Order (cf. nn. 194, SI; 196, SII; 201; 202; 
203; 205, SII; 207, SI; 

3. Canon 614: "Monasteries of cloistered nuns which are assoc- 

iated with an institute of men, have their own 
rule of life and governance, in accordance with 
the constitutions. The mutual rights and obliga- 
tions are to be defined in such a way that spirit- 
ual good may come from the association." 

4. Monasteries of Dominican nuns do not fall under the scope of 
canon 615. Consequently those canons which apply the vigi- 
lance of the bishop to monasteries mentioned in canon 615 do 
not, by common law, apply to Dominican nuns. 

F. The privilege of exemption began with the Dominican Friars. The 
nuns share in this privilege just as they share in the broader 
patrimony of the Order 

1. Exemption from the authority of the local ordinary in inter- 
nal matters is for the good of the Order 

2. As a vital part of our patrimony it should be reflected as 
completely as possible in all of our legislation 

3. The relationship of the Nuns to the Friars and to the Master 
of the Order should be considered in the context of our gov- 
ernmental spirit: a relationship of mutual trust. 



A. The renunciation of goods at solemn profession 

1. Some religious are requested by parents to place their 
goods into a trust agreement with others as trustees. 

2. In such cases religious do not have radical ownership 

3. This is often the case when parents or other specify 
that they do not want their children's inheritance going 
to a religious community upon their death. 

B. The relationship of Dominican Nuns to the Local Ordinary 

1. It is clear from the constitutions that the nuns are sub- 
ject to the Master of the Order or his juridically appointed 
representatives . 

2. Cf . 196 , SI , SII : mention is made of the possibility of 
monasteries being subject to the local Ordinary. This 
mention is perhaps superfluous given the fact that all nec- 
essary reference to the Local ordinary is already in the 
general law. 

3. Cf . n. 246 , SIII , 2 ° : acceptance of Mass legacies. Canon 
1304 states that the "ordinary" gives permission for the 
acceptance of Mass foundations and legacies and canon 1308, 
5 states that the supreme moderator of a clerical institute 
of pontifical right has the power of reduction. 

4. Cf. n. 246, SIV : It is not necessary to regulate that the 
annual economic report be subjected to the aporoval of the 
local Ordinary since the funds are not subjevt to his auth- 
ority (cc. 615, 637, 1287, 1). 

5. Elections : According to c. 6 25, 1 the requirement that the 
local ordinary be present is pertains only to those monast- 
eries which are not connected to an institute. Therefore 
it is not required by law for Dominican Nuns. 

The regular superior retains the right to confirm or cassate 
the election (n. 278, SII). The bishop's presence is there- 
fore canonically superfluous. 

However , for ecclesiological reasons ... the relationship of 
the nuns to the local Church, the bishop's presence could 
be recommended or encouraged ... but not required for constit- 
utional validity. 


6. Cases of negligence : (cf. n. 246, SV) It is probably 
wise to defer to the head of the local church in cases of 
administrative or other negligence as specified. It should 
always be clear that this is by way of exception. 

7. Proposing persons for election : is this part of the Domin- 
ican legislative tradition. It can be done by way of ex- 
ception but then it should be made clear that this is done 
only by those with competence over the constitutions. 

Some Particular Questions of Possible Importance 
1. Exit and Dismissal from Religious Life 

a. Exclaustration : (c. 686, 2): the Holy See grants any 
and all indults, both petitioned and imposed. At the 
present time the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio has the faculty 
to grant such an indult for up to three years. When 
petitioning the superior should include the nun's pet- 
ition, the votum of the superior and mind of the council. 

b. Imposed exclaustration : (c. 686, 3) . This is an admin- 
istrative and not a judicial act. However since it is 
granted by the Holy See, it is not subject to the canon- 
ical appeals against administrative decrees (c. 1732) . 

The superior must have a proportionately grave reason for 
requesting an imposed exclaustration, such as prolonged 
absence from the cloister with no reasonable hope of an im- 
mediate return or something similar. An imposed exclaus- 
tration can be granted for a time or indefinitely since it 
is granted by the Holy See (through the SCRIS) . 

Although the law does not require it, charity would dictate 
that every reasonable means be exhausted before petitioning 
for a decree. Nevertheless the good of the community and 
common sense must also be considered. 

c. Transfer : to transfer from one Dominican monastery to 
another, the norms of canon 684, 3 apply. The consent of 
both prioresses and the additional consent of the chapter 
of the receiving monastery is needed. 

To transfer from a Dominican monastery to a monastery of 
another Order or to another religious institute no longer 
requires the permission of the Holy See. Therefore the 


permission required in n. 179 is now superfluous. For 
such a transfer the permission of the supreme moderators 
(the Dominican prioress) is required with the consent of 
the respective councils. 

Automatic dismissal : a religious is automatically dis- 
missed for those reasons mentioned in canon 694, 1 which 
include only notorious defection from the faith and mar- 
riage. The superior and her council merely declare the 
fact with proper notification to the religious. 
Mandated Dismissal : the law mentions three delicts for 
which a process of dismissal must be held: murder, abor- 
tion and concubinage (clerics only) . In these cases the 
dismissal is not automatic but follows upon proof of the 
delict, (c. 695) 

Dismissal in General (cc. 696-701) 

The canon (c. 696) mentions a number of reasons for which 
a dismissal process may began, including unlawful absence 
from the religious house. 

The process : the major superior (prioress) must first have 
some evidence consisting of written evidence or sworn 
testimony. It must be more than conjecture or personal 
dislike for a person but objective proof of a concrete prob- 
-the accused must be notified in writing or orally before 

two witnesses the dismissal will follow unless she reforms! 
-the reasons for the dismissal must be clearly and complete.' 


-the accused must be given the right of defense not exclud-' 
ing canonical counsel . ■ 

-a second warning as the first, is to be given after 15 I 
days from reception of the first and in the same way with 
similar warnings and admonitions j 

-the superior may judge that further warnings are needed or 
may determine with the council that defense was insuffic- 
ient and there is sufficient proof of incorrigibility. In 
this case the acts are to be signed by the prioress and a 
notary, present throughout the process. 


-the acts of the case are then studied by the supreme 
moderator with the council. They must vote secretly 
on the matter. If they vote to dismiss the decree to 
be communicated to the religious must contain a summ- 
ary of the reasons and the law upon which dismissal is 
based . 
-the religious must also be informed of her right to ap- 
peal to the Holy See (SCRIS) within ten days of the day 
upon which she received notice of the decree. 
-In our monasteries, the decree of dismissal and all of 
the acts must be forwarded to the Holy See (SCRIS) before 
the religious is notified. There, it is ratified and 
returned for transmission to the dismissed religious, 
g. Appeals : the first level of appeal is to the Holy See 
(SCRIS) which is made known to the religious. There the 
substance of the case is studied. If the decree is rat- 
ified the religious can appeal further to the Signatura, 
where the process will be studied to make sure that there 
were no faults therein, 
h. Authority to Dismiss : nn. 185, SI and 188 states that the 
local Ordinary continues the process of dismissal after the 
acts have been drawn up by the prioress. Canon 699, 2 is 
clear that the autonomous monasteris mentioned in c. 615 are 
obliged to send the acts to the local ordinary. However, 
Dominican monasteries are not under c. 615. It would seem 
more appropriate to entrust the process to the Master of 
the Order. 

Some questions concerning temporal goods 

a. Compensation for sisters who have left or been dismissed : 
C. 70 2 states that a nun who leaves or is dismissed cannot 
claim anything but must be treated with charity. The const- 
itutions mention that such a nun should be subsidized for 

a time. 

b. Alienations : an alienation is the transfer of title of any 
ecclesiastical goods from the monastery to another owner. 
Alienation includes also any transaction or act whereby the 


stable patrimony of the monastery might be jeopardized 
This includes mortgage, loan, bonds, long-term lease e 
-if the value of the sale, loan etc. is within one million 

dollars (at the present time) the written permission of 
the competent superior is required. According to canon 
638, 4 it would seem that this superior would be the Mas- J 
ter of the Order, 
-if the value exceeds one million dollars permission must 
be obtained from the Holy See (SCRIS) . The petition is 
addressed to the prefect of SCRIS and contains all of the 
pertinent information: 
° the nature of the alienation 
the amount involved 
° if a sale, two appraisals 

° if a loan, debt capacity and collateral offered 
° presently, the favorable opinion of the local ordinary 


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Part II - The Early Dominicans 

Sister Mary Martin, O.P, 

In the second part of this paper on the prayer of St. Dominic and 
the early Dominicans, we will examine the practice of private prayer in 
the Order from its beginnings until roughly 1260. These are the great 
formative years of liturgy, legislation and custom for both the brethren 
and the nuns, culminating in the masterful achievements of Humbert of 
Romans. The foundations of prayer and devotion laid during this period 
have perdured throughout the centuries. 

The first aspect of the private prayer of both the early friars and 
nuns which comes to the fore is their adherence to the ancient monastic 
custom of remaining in the church to pray after compline and after matins. (18) 
This was legislated for the nuns from the beginning, and may be found in 
the Rule of San Sisto, the Constitutions of Montargis and the definitive 
Constitutions promulgated by Humbert of Romans in 1259. (19) While the 
friars were never bound to such an observance by formal law, Humbert reminds 
them several times in his writings that it is an established custom, having 
thus the force of law. (20) 

What was the content of these "secret prayers" ( orationes secretae ) 
as Humbert of Romans calls them, following ancient monastic usage? 
A customary of Monte Cassino, dating back to the late sixth century, tells 
us: "After the office (of compline) is finished, let them hold the great- 
est silence on their lips, and in their hearts let them make secret prayers 
and call to mind their sins, with , groaning and tears and weeping, but with- 
out audible sighs, lest any of the others be disturbed. Then each one 
should give thanks to God in these words: 'I give you thanks, almighty 
and eternal God, for you have deigned in your holy mercy to keep me through 
this day...' And thus, with great care, let them go to the dormitory." (21) 

At a somewhat later stage of monastic development (eighth-ninth century) 
these secret prayers were supplemented by visits to each of the altars of 
the conventual church. The traditional length of time for such private 
devotions was the amount needed to say "the penitential psalms and the 
litany", that is, the kyries, Pater noster, versicle, response and prayer 
included at the end of most offices and semi-liturgical exercises since at 
least the time of St. Benedict. (22) 

The monastic custom, outlined above, of private prayer in common 
after compline and after matins, underlies much of what we read in the 
early sources about the prayer-life of the first brethren and nuns. 
For example, the Vitae Fratrum contains a somewhat idealized description 
of the fervor of the first brethren. Among other things, they "prolonged 
their nightly vigils until daybreak, rousing their flagging energies by 
countless genuflections... (After compline) they visited all the altars 
in turn, prostrating themselves humbly before each, and shedding. .. lamen- 
table tears..." (23) Blessed Jordan prayed "during such time as one 
could easily have walked about eight miles. This was specially his custom 
after compline, and again after matins..." (24) A signal was given after 
the time of prayer following compline, and all were supposed to retire 
to the dormitory (which was locked once everyone was in) . Even though 
St. Dominic himself regularly stayed behind to pray until matins, one 
story in the Vitae Fratrum shows him reprimanding the devil disguised as 
a brother who remained praying before the altar after the signal was 


given. (25) This would account for what we read in the canonization 
process of St. Margaret of Hungary: "...after compline, the virgin 
Margaret used to remain in prayer until cockcrow. In the Chapter Room 
of the monastery, before the Crucif ix. . . she used to say the seven pen- 
itential psalms. After that, she went and stood in front of her bed 
until the cocks began to crow." (26) 

The early friars and nuns also had in common their heartfelt and 
unabashed prayers of petition for all of their needs, whether spiritual 
or temporal. Many times the answers to such prayers were felt to be 
clearly miraculous. One of the most famous instances of this occurred 
at San Sisto when, at St. Dominic's prayer, two angels appeared in the 
refectory and served loaves of bread to the provisionless brethren. (27) 
Nor were they slack in giving thanks for favors received. 

Although the friars and the nuns did have much in common as far as 
their practice of private prayer was concerned, there were also signif- 
icant differences between them, due to the different roles they were 
expected to play in their exercise of the one Dominican charism. So 
let us now examine each of the two branches of the primitive Family 
separately . 

The Friars 

The Order of Preachers was founded, in the celebrated words of Pope 
Honorius III, "for preaching the Word of God and proclaiming the name 
of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the world." This purpose has in- 
fluenced every aspect of the lives of the friars from the first. 
Dominic himself saw that they had to study in order to be able to preach 
effectively. As a consequence, their Office had to be said "briefly 
and succinctly lest the brethren lose devotion and their study be in any 
way impeded." (28) Students, professors and preachers could be dis- 
pensed from the choral Office; indeed, dispensations from anything that 
would "impede study, preaching, or the good of souls" became an integral 
part of Dominican law, "since it is known that our Order was founded... 
especially for preaching and the salvation of souls." (29) 

One can easily see how this principle was carried over into the 
private prayer of the brethren. We noted above, for example, that the 
traditional times for private prayer, after compline and after matins, 
were never specified in the Constitutions of the friars, while the 
Constitutions of the nuns carried them from the beginning. Could it be 
that the brethren did not wish to bind themselves by written law to a 
practice that might possibly impede study? The time Of prayer after 
compline was indeed customary and its observance is well attested to 
in the sources. But beyond that, students were permitted "to keep 
nocturnal vigil in their cells... for the sake of study." (30) This 
was probably at the instigation of St. Dominic himself who, though in 
later years he stayed up at night to pray, while a student at Palencia, 
"in his untiring desire to learn . . .spent his nights with almost no 
sleep at all..." (31) As for prayer after matins, there are very few 
references to it among the anecdotes in the Vitae Fratrum and a certain 
ambiguity exists in the Primitive Constitutions about even allowing 
time for it. We read in Distinction I, #la: "When matins are finished 
chapter is held, or may be postponed until after prime or omitted alto- 
gether according to the judgment of the prelate, so that study be not 


That a conflict existed in the minds of some of the friars over the 
relative value of prayer and study may be seen from the question which 
one of them put to Blessed Jordan: was it "more profitable to occupy 
himself continually in prayer, or in studying the holy Scriptures"? 
Jordan answers in effect that both are necessary, at the proper time 
and in proper balance. (32) But when the two got out of balance, the 
friars who favored prayer over study were the ones who were blamed. (33) 
Not once is someone blamed for preaching or studying to the detriment 
of private prayer. 

This does not mean that the friars never prayed or that they down- 
graded prayer. Plenty of evidence exists to the contrary. It simply 
means that they were not monks any longer, but friars preachers; prayer 
had to be integrated into the urgent task of 'announcing the Good News to 
the poor. 1 (Lk. 4,18) And integrate they did. In imitation of their 
holy father Dominic, they prayed while on the road, they interspersed 
their study with prayer, they prayed, as much as possible, at the tra- 
ditional times; ideally, their whole lives became lives of prayer, at a 
level where there could be no conflict between the various preoccupations 
of the apostolate and the exigencies of union with God. Toward this end 
Humbert of Romans advises: "Frequently turn your heart to God so as to 
enter into His familiar friendship, although it be but for a short time... 
Cultivate in and impress upon yourselves the habit of prayer... Seek 
opportunities for secret prayers. Also, use more freely those prayers 
which seem most to excite your heart to fervour." (34) And later he 
adds, deliberately paraphrasing Blessed Jordan's description of St. 
Dominic: "Arrange the night for silence and prayer, but the day for 
good works and labour. Give the day to your neighbor, the night to God. "(35) 

Perhaps, in the last analysis, what made a balanced program of prayer 
and apostolate possible, for Dominic and his sons, was that preaching had 
become for them not only the fruit of contemplation but also its source. 
The Vitae Fratrum contains a significant story in this regard: "When (a) 
brother had spent thirty years in constant preaching .. .he seemed to be- 
hold the Mother of God present her Son to him as the reward of his minis- 
try: and such unspeakable comfort filled his soul at the sight, that for 
eight days he could hardly contain himself for joy." (36) Here we see 
contemplative grace being offered as the reward for active ministry. In 
the first part, we beheld St. Dominic being driven to prayer out of com- 
passion for sinners. This, too, is an essential part of the Dominican 
charism, that work for the salvation of others should increase zeal for 
the salvation of others, that apostolic activity should spontaneously 
lead to contemplative prayer. 

However, we also see among the brethren an appreciation for the 
purely contemplative life and even a certain nostalgia for it. This 
is mirrored especially in their letters to the nuns of the Order. We 
turn now to these and to the other early documents pertaining to the 
nuns, which should enable us to see what part prayer played in their 
lives and what part their lives of prayer were expected to play in the 

The Nuns 

From the very beginning, the nuns of the Order were steeped in the 
ancient monastic traditions of prayer and asceticism. Modern historians 


speculate that St. Dominic had originally intended to bequeath his first 
monastery at Prouihle to the Cistercian Order. We have no direct evi- 
dence for this and only scant, albeit significant, evidence for the type 
of life that was lived there in the early years. (37) But for his sec- 
ond foundation at Madrid, we have St. Dominic's own words. "Wage war 
then, my daughters," he says, "against the ancient enemy with prayer and 
fasting..." A brief sentence, but resounding with echoes of Cassian and 
Benedict and the Sayings of the Fathers, as well as of all those who had 
followed in their footsteps. 

The evidence for this is clearer still in the Rule of San Sisto, 
especially chapters XX and XXI, which were almost certainly composed by 
St. Dominic himself in the winter of 1220-1221. (38) Here we read 
(Chapter XX): "...with the exception of the hours which the sisters 
ought to consecrate to prayer, to reading, to the preparation of the 
Office and chant, or to study, they should devote themselves to some 
manual labor..." And further on (Chapter XXI) the text adds: "On feast 
days all must devote themselves to reading, to the Divine Office, and to 
prayer, and leave aside all mechanical work." It concludes with the pre- 
scription (mentioned above) of time for private prayer after compline and 
after matins . 

What is remarkable about these two chapters is not that they recommend 
work (itself an intrinsic part of the monastic tradition) but that they 
take for granted the importance which the other elements of the monastic 
program will have in the nuns' lives. "...with the exception of the hours 
which the sisters ought to consecrate to prayer, etc...." Here, indeed, 
is a healthy balance between prayer, private and liturgical, lectio divina 
and the study which nourishes it, and work. Such a balance is worthy to 
take its place among the best in Western monastic tradition. Obviously 
Dominic wished his daughters to continue in this good and wholesome way. 

His successor, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, is no less attached to the 
traditional monastic values of prayer and contemplation and no less de- 
termined to inculcate them upon the nuns. Over and over again in his 
letters to Diana and the nuns of Bologna we read such things as: 
"...dwell in desire in the heavenly strongholds..." "Let your hearts 
be always filled with a burning desire for the blessed city of the saints 
in paradise..." "...only the love of God knows neither measure nor mod- 
eration. And that love is nourished .. .by holy desires and loving contem- 
plation and through the cherishing of that sisterly love whereby each of 
you loves the others as herself." (39) These themes of desire for heaven 
and love without measure, as well as others which can be found in the 
writings of Jordan, are redolent of the teachings of St. Gregory the Great 
and his successors in the monastic tradition, especially as distilled in 
the works of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and other twelfth century Cister- 
cians. (40) They represent the finest fruits of the monastic theology 
of prayer and contemplation; and this is what Jordan would have for his 
nuns. Through him, they have become the heritage of all Dominican nuns 
throughout the ages. 

But the prayer of the nuns was to be not only contemplative, but 
Dominican as well. We saw in Part I how the prayer of St. Dominic, 
while remaining firmly rooted in the monastic tradition, had an apostol- 
ic thrust not hitherto found. In the letters of Jordan to Diana and her 
sisters, we find the same apostolic thrust, expressed as a sharing, 
through their prayer, in the labors of the brethren. One of the most 


significant passages in this regard is in letter 14: "Give yourself 
zealously to prayer; and pray for me . . . and my other companions ... that 
the Lord may direct our ways according to his good pleasure and may 
grant us by his grace to win salvation for souls: it is for this that 
we have set ourselves to work, and by your prayers you will be sharers 
in the work." Here Jordan expresses with succinct eloquence both the 
mission of the Order and the nuns' place in that mission: to be shar- 
ers by their prayers in the work of saving souls. And this need not 
be only by praying for the apostolate of the brethren, although Jordan 
most often puts it in these terms, but, quite simply, by praying with 
the brethren for the salvation of the world. 

However, Jordan also asks the nuns to pray for the brethren them- 
selves. With a humility which is belied by the testimony of his com- 
panions, (41) he writes in letter 25: "I am much in need of prayer 
because of my many faults, and I pray but seldom myself: do you there- 
fore exhort your sisters that they too may make good my deficiencies 
in this • respect . " This sentiment is echoed by St. Peter Martyr and 
St. Raymond of Penafort in their letters to the nuns. (42) It repre- 
sents another aspect of the role of the nuns within the Order, which 
has often been misunderstood. The brethren (and other members of the 
Family) must have their own personal lives of prayer; the nuns cannot 
supply for that. Nor is their presence meant in any way to downgrade 
the value of others' prayers. But there is a value of its own to the 
purely contemplative life that is incalculable and to which numerous 
saints as well as recent Church documents have testified. The fruits 
of such a life redound to the whole Church in a mysterious yet real 
way. The early brethren appreciated this acutely and felt, not without 
justice, that they had a right to the first share of those fruits. 

The Laity 

We know that from the very beginning of the Order, generous lay 
men and women have attached themselves to the work of St. Dominic 
and his followers. Such individual attachments became a movement, 
eventually issuing in the establishment of the Order of Penance in 
1285. Prior to this time, a number of different confraternities had 
already sprung up, under the guidance of Dominican directors. Unfor- 
tunately, very little is known about the prayer life of these earlier 
members of the Dominican laity, but, in all probability, it did not 
differ much from that of other pious lay folk of those days, except 
perhaps in its concern for orthodox doctrine. 

Tugwell, in his Early Dominicans, Selected Writings , gives two 
examples of the statutes of lay confraternities dedicated to the cor- 
poral works of mercy. In one of these, we read the following injunc- 
tion to daily mental prayer: "We have ordained that every member of 
the f raternity. .. should go to his own church or any other... at some 
time every day, thinking, if he cares to, how our Saviour once came 
into this world for us and for our redemption, and also that he is to 
come again to judge the world and repay each man according to his works; 
thinking also of the kindness of our advocate, the most blessed Virgin 
Mary, the Mother of God, who intercedes for us with her Son...." (43) 
While there is nothing specifically Dominican in this, not even the 
devotion to Our Lady, the ordination itself to spend some time every 
day in church thinking upon our salvation is remarkable. It is a 


good indication that the early brethren in their preaching and the early 
nuns in their prayer encouraged people to something other than routine 
good behavior and the mechanical recitation of a few vocal prayers. 

Another good example of this may be seen in William Peraldus' 
Sermon on Prayer, (44) which was presumably intended for the laity. 
There he examines the Lord's Prayer as the perfect example of the prayer 
of petition, containing all those things we need ask for from God. He 
exhorts his listeners to make these petitions with great desire, with 
compunction, and even with tears. Thus we find traditional monastic 
themes being transposed to a lay milieu and made fruitful by the skill 
and pastoral concern of the preacher. 


Through the course of the centuries many popular devotions have 
been associated with the Dominican Order. Some of these are linked to 
the names of various Dominican saints, but most of them go back, at least 
in germ, to the time of St, Dominic and the first brethren. Among these 
very early devotions, four in particular stand out: devotion to Our Lady, 
devotion to the Holy Name, devotion to the humanity of Christ and especial- 
ly his passion, devotion to the Sacred Heart. (45) 

We see, for example, the brethren tenderly invoking Mary as their 
Queen and Lady, reciting her Office, keeping her feasts; we see Henry of 
Cologne preaching the Holy Name of Jesus with such fervor and reverence 
that long after his death people were still roused to devotion at the re- 
membrance of his words; we see Walter of Strasbourg often enduring in his 
body the pain of Christ's wounds; and we hear Blessed Jordan telling his 
nuns to read in these same wounds the law of charity wondrous ly writ, 
while they enter ever more deeply into the opened side of their crucified 

None of these devotions, however, originated with the Order; for the 
most part, they had their roots in the monastic piety of the eleventh 
and twelfth centuries, as exemplified by St. Bernard. As one author puts 
it: "...his spiritual teaching centers on Jesus and Mary and it is due 
to his influence in great part that the Middle Ages was characterized 
by intense devotion to the sacred humanity of Christ. He is likewise 
a forerunner among the propagators of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus." 
(46) In other words, Dominicans simply embraced already existing prac- 
tices and formulas and transmitted them through ever-widening circles 
of influence. The one notable exception is the Salve procession. 

The antiphon "Salve Regina" is ascribed to Adhemar, bishop of Puy , 
who died in 1098. The source of his inspiration was very likely the 
Byzantine Akathist Hymn , which found its way into the West during the 
late eighth century. (47) This new antiphon in praise and supplication 
of the Queen of Heaven was picked up by the "new" Order of Citeaux and 
diffused widely among its monasteries. For a brief period at least, it 
was sung in procession after the daily morning chapter. This custom, 
however, was dropped in 1220. (48) Did Blessed Jordan actually wit- 
ness such a procession? We have no way of knowing. We know only what 
he himself tells us in his Libellus , that one of the brethren in the 
priory of Bologna was obsessed by the devil in such a way that the whole 
community was upset; that in order to seek deliverance, they decided to 


sing the "Salve Regina" in procession after Compline; and that the cus- 
tom caught on and spread from Bologna throughout the province of Lombar- 
dy and eventually to the whole Order. Now it is a formal adjunct to the 
Office of Compline, not only within the Order, but for the entire Roman 
Rite. However, it clearly began as a form of communal devotion. The 
words of Jordan himself betray this purpose: "How many tears of devo- 
tion," he writes, "have sprung from this holy praise of God's venerable 
Mother? How many hearts of those who sang or listened has it not melted... 
I mention this so that the brethren may be inspired to even greater devo- 
tion in praising the Virgin." (49) The singing of the Salve still remains 
after all these centuries, one of the best loved and most widely practiced 
customs of the Order. 

(Note: The Rosary is not treated here simply because it is not mentioned 
in any of the documents emanating from this period of the Order's history. 
This in no way denigrates from its position of pre-eminence in Dominican 
devotional life.) 


To conclude this paper, I think it will be sufficient to review some 
points that have already been made, either actually or implicitly, in 
the body of the text, and need now only to be restated in a more summary 

1) The prayer of St. Dominic and the early Dominicans is deeply 
rooted in traditional monastic forms of prayer and contemplation. These 
include the orationes secretae of the Benedictine tradition, the class- 
ical use of lectio divina , and the emphasis, taken from Cassian and 
Gregory the Great, on compunction and purity of heart, attained through 
ascetical effort and ceaseless attention to the word of God. 

2) Early Dominicans both taught and preached a traditional monastic 
theology of prayer and contemplation, especially as expressed in the Cis- 
tercian school. This is a corollary of the first point. We have seen it 
in the case of Jordan and his letters to the nuns, as well as in the case 
of William Peraldus 1 Sermon on Prayer. Thomas Merton, in his study of 
St. Lutgarde of Aywieres , points out the same thing with regard to Thomas 
of Cantimpre, the saint's spiritual director and first biographer. (50) 
Even the links between the prayer of St. Dominic and the monastic tradi- 
tion would not have been so easy to identify if the author of The Nine Ways 
had not himself been steeped in the same tradition and the vocabulary 
which expressed it. Not until the fourteenth century was a "new" theology 
of contemplation and the contemplative life to develop within the Order, 
thanks largely to the preaching and writing of Meister Eckhart and his 
disciples . 

3) The prayer of St. Dominic and the early Dominicans was permeated 
from the beginning with a strong apostolic thrust not hitherto found in 
the monastic tradition. We have already observed this more fully at the 
end of Part I, with regard to St. Dominic. Suffice it to say here that 
the first brethren and nuns shared completely and with enthusiam in the 
charism of their founder. 

4) The prayer of the early Dominicans, like that of St. Dominic, 
although perhaps not so noticeably, was marked by individuality of ex- 
pression. This is clearer among the brethren than among the nuns, at 
least in the sense that we know more about the prayer of individual friars 


than we do about that of individual nuns. But it is definitely part of 
that great Dominican charism which, in all branches of the Order, allows 
scope for the uniqueness of each person's call and response, within the 
one vocation which we all have in common. 

So then, it falls to us also, members of the Dominican Order living 
at the end of the twentieth century, to carry on, in ever fresh and vital 
ways, the heritage of contemplative worship and apostolic zeal left us 
by our forebears. While our prayer forms may be different than they were 
seven hundred and fifty years ago, our reverence and compunction and de- 
votion should be the same, as well as our desire, both to possess the joys 
of heaven and to share those joys with all men and women. 


(18) For the information in this section, I am indebted to the 
following article by Paul Philippe, O.P.: "L'Oraison Dominicaine au 
XHIe Siecle", La Vie Spirituelle , Suppl Feb. 1947, pp. 424-454 

(19) Rule of San Sisto, #XXI; Constitutions of Montargis, Chapter I; 
Constitutions of 1259, Chapter I 

(20) cf. Paul Philippe, O.P., art. cit., p. 428 for references to 
the works of Humbert . 

(21) Ordo qualiter ; P.L. 66, 941: quoted in Philippe, art. cit., 
p. 442 (94). My translation of the Latin differs from that of Philippe, 
given in the body of the article. 

(22) Philippe, pp. 431-432. This "litany" may still be found at 
the end of the penitential psalms in the edition of the Libellus Precum 
put out by the Master of the Order, Emmanuel Suarez , in 1952. 

(23) The Lives of the Brethren , Pt. 4, Chap. 1 

(24) Ibid. , Pt. 3, Chap. 6 

(25) Ibid. , Pt. 2, Chap. 15 

(26) Canonization Process of St. Margaret of Hungary, Testimony of 
Dame Benedicta; translated in Tugwell, Early Dominicans , p. 412 

(27) Constantine of Orvieto, "Legenda Sancti Dorainici", #37 
(Lehner, p. 68) 

(28) Primitive Constitutions of the Order, 1,3 (Lehner, p. 215) 

(29) Ibid., Prologue (Lehner, p. 212) 

(30) Ibid., 11,29 (Lehner, p. 246) 

(31) Jordan of Saxony, "Libellus", #7 (Lehner, p. 10) 



(32) The Lives of the Brethren, Pt. 3, Chap. 31 

(33) cf. The Lives of the Brethren , Pt. 4, Chaps. 5&22; Jordan of 
Saxony, "Encyclical Letter of May 1233", Early Dominicans, Selected Writings , 
ed. Simon Tugwell, O.P., p. 122 & ff. 

(34) Humbert of Romans, The Religious Vows and Virtues , ed. by James 
Harrison, O.P. (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1922) Chap. VI, #2 

(35) Ibid., Chap. X; Libellus , #105 

(36) The Lives of the Brethren , Pt. 4, Chap. 23 

(37) Pierre Mandonnet, O.P., St. Dominic and His Work , trans. Sister 
Mary Benedicta Larkin, O.P. (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1944) 

pp. 369, 373-74; Vicaire, St. Dominic and His Times , pp. 127-129; cf. also 
letter of Vicaire to Sr. Mary of God, Conf. Coiran. , Vol. Ill, No. 1, p. 29 & ff. 

(38) Vicaire, op. cit., Appendix VIII, pp. 430 & 435 

(39) Jordan to Diana, letters 1,8 & 10; all quotations from the 
letters of Jordan are from: Gerald Vann, O.P., To Heaven With Diana! 
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1960) 

(40) cf. J. Leclercq, O.S.B., The Love of Learning and the Desire for God , 
trans, by Catherine Misrahi (New York: Fordham University Press, 1961) 

esp. Chapters 2 & 4; also cf. Marguerite Aron, St. Dominic's Successor 
(St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1955) p. 81 

(41) The Lives of the Brethren , Pt. 3, Chap. 6 

(42) given in Tugwell, op. cit., pp. 409-411 

(43) Tugwell, op. cit., p. 446 

(44) Ibid., pp. 165-177 

(45) cf., for example: Jordan of Saxony, Libellus #79 (Holy Name); 
The Lives of the Brethren , Pt. 1, Chaps. 5 & 6, Pt. 4, Chap. 9; Sr. Cecilia, 
The Miracles of St. Dominic , #7 (Our Lady); The Lives of the Brethren , Pt.4, 
Chaps. 23 & 24 (Passion of Christ) 

(46) J. Aumann, P. Mulhern, T. O'Donnell, Devotion to the Heart of Jesus 
(Rome: Institute of Spirituality, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, 
1982) p. 54; cf. also Leclercq, Vandenbroucke & Bouyer, The Spirituality 

of the Middle Ages , pp. 243 & ff. 

(47) The Spirituality of the Middle Ages , p. 253 

(48) Wm. R. Bonniwell, O.P., A History of the Dominican Liturgy 
(New York: Joseph F. Wagner, Inc., 1944) p. 152 

(49) Libellus , #120 

(50) Thomas Merton, What Are These Wounds? (Milwaukee: The Bruce 
Publishing Co., 1950) p. 99 



Mystery of two thousand years, 
Mystery still of each day's tears 
Of yearning for Messiah King, 
For Him Who does all heaven bring-- 
Bring to earth. 

Wonder of a Jewish maiden, 
E'en today with graces laden, 
Graces for her own loved nation, 
Graces for all God's creation 
Brought to Birth. 

Still the mystery is present 
In this earth's joys and its lament, 
Yes, present still in each of us, 
In whom He dwells the Lord Jesus 
Here on earth . 

Sister Maria of the Holy Eucharist, O.P 
West Springfield 



Sister Mary Francis, O.P, 
Farminqton Hills 
John 3: 1-19 gives an unsurpassed portrait of Our Lord as the Teacher of Prayer. 
In fact, when you ponder this pericope in the light of contemplative awareness, you 
find that it opens up vast areas of truth and - almost with anatomical precision - 
lays bare the content of anxiety often experienced as prayerlife deepens. There are, 
of course, as many forms of anxiety as there are manifestations of life. Any threat 
can awaken anxiety in us. Life, health, security, good name, etc., all are target areas 
for our anxieties. So, too, is our guilt and the fear of exposure. But what happens 
as union with God deepens is something other. It does involve these areas but it 
is provoked by an experience of Faith and is really concerned with the risk to which 
God summons us: the risk of Faith, Hope and Charity. 

Nicodemus, we are told, "came to Jesus by night". He is in the typical state of one 
who has been touched, and touched deeply by God, and yet is still caught up in a whole 
worldview of countervalues. Human respect dominates this man and he fears to associate 
openly with this new Rabbi and his startling doctrines. Yet he has been pierced by 
grace: "We know you are a teacher who comes from God." How similar to our own attitudes 
when we first begin to respond to God. We "know" that He is the Teacher, but... How 
far are we willing to go with such knowledge? 

Jesus does not waste a moment with this man but confronts him with the essential 
truth of the Kingdom: "I tell you most solemnly, 

unless a man is born from above, 
he cannot see the kingdom of God." 

Christ's content of Truth - which is our salvation - involves a totally new "birth" 
in God. The attitude of contemplative awareness, that tendency to prefer solitude and 
silence, that hankering and hungering for union with God, that habitual thirst for in- 
depth security in God, does have roots in nature. Modern psychiatry has done us con- 
templatives a service in disclosing the deep natural yearnings which drive some 
people to seek a kind of "return to the womb", and so, drawing and attracting them 
into the contemplative orbit. For life really is a matter of returning to God, and a 
rebirth into His Life. But we are concerned here with a reality which completely sur- 
passes ( not by denying but by integrating ) a natural need. In contemplative prayer 
man's basic yearning for such a return is not merely sublimated but is radically trans- 
formed. Nothing in nature could ever satisfy it. We are "born from above" and in the 
light of that rebirth we dimly grasp that natural yearnings and the anxieties accompany- 
ing them are, or can be, a remote preparation for grace. They are the first inklings 
of that nostalgia for God which pursues every contemplative until the Day of face to 
face Vision, when we shall "see the kingdom of God", as the Lord promised. 

The obtuseness of Nicodemus is light for the rest of us. "how can a grown man be 
born? Can he go back into his mother's womb and be born again?" Yes, he has come far 
enough - in his "night" - to grasp that some kind of absolutely radical change is in- 
volved here. And Jesus takes his question seriously: 

"I tell you most solemnly, 

unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, 
he cannot enter the kingdom of God..." 

The birth to which we are called, this birth "through water and the Spirit", is both 
sacramental and pneumatic. The outward sign ( baptism ) and the inward reality ( divine 
adoption and the Indwelling of the Blessed Trinity ) constitute a whole new life 
principle and a whole new way of living. Granted this, do baptism and the Spirit auto- 
matically destroy all anxiety in human life? Experience tells us otherwise. In fact, 

-130- j 

Jur Lord makes no such promise but hints at a kind of risk which is inherent with 
ntrance into His kingdom: 

"What is born of the flesh is flesh; 
What is born of the Spirit is spirit." 

.hat is, "let us be perfectly clear about what we are discussing", and then, 

"Do not be surprised when I say: 
You must be born from above." 

But Nicodemus was surprised, jolted out of his habitual frame of security as a Teacher 
in Israel, and Jesus was well aware of it! 

"The wind blows wherever it pleases; 
You hear its sound, 

but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. 
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit." 

We all have within us two "selves": the surface and the depth self. The surface self 
is a flux of shifting moods, continually changing sensations. It is the stage on which 
our deeper self meets its needs for self-knowledge, self-acceptance and self-love and 
plays out its role vis-a-vis the world around us. But the depth self eludes us. It is 
the non-conscious core of spiritual being and energy; the'ground' or point of intensity 
in which we meet God in the spirit. Jesus calls Nicodemus to awareness of his depth self 
and its exigencies. This is the same call experienced by all who would grow in contempla- 
tive union with God. But again, it involves a measure of risk and the acceptance of some 
anxiety, for when the spirit begins to stir within us, we "cannot tell where it comes 
from or where it is going." We must take down our defenses and permit an invasion of our 
deepest self. This is not easy, and Jesus knew it. 

How does He prepare Nicodemus for that descent-ascent by which the core self is laid 
open to the Spirit? In reply to Nicodemus' question, "How can this be possible?", Jesus 
answers with a challenge to humility and a call to conscious self-knowledge: "You, a 
teacher in Israel, and you do not know these things!" Then He discloses more of the truth: 

"We speak only about what we know 
and witness only to what we have seen 
and yet you people reject our evidence." 

He is provoking in Nicodemus a response to faith in HIS authority as a Teacher in Israel. 
And how threatened Nicodemus must have felt! 

"If you do not believe me 
when I speak about things in this world, 
How are you going to believe me 
when I speak to you about heavenly things?" 

Jesus begins with an appeal to the natural mysteries which surround us every day. Implicit 
He is saying: "You must be in touch with reality, even when you cannot grasp its nature." 
But the knowledge of "heavenly things" belongs to an entirely different order of the real. 
It is the gift and content of Faith bestowed by the "One who came down from heaven." 
Acceptance of THIS Man and His teaching means eternal life: 

"And the Son of Man must be lifted up 
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert 
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him." 


And here we come to one of the most pervasive causes of anxiety in the life of prayer: 
that continuous confrontation between who we are ( sinful and weak creatures ) and what 
we are called to be ( citizens of the kingdom in eternal union with God ). The sort of 
anxiety such self-knowledge awakens is not unhealthy - it is a summons to move on to 
the next step in the theological virtues: self-acceptance through HOPE. For "God so loved 
the world that He gave His Only Son" precisely that we might attain eternal life through 
this Son. But when the dark light of Faith assails the spirit, the real question becomes, 
"Do we still prefer darkness to the light because our deeds are evil?" It can indeed seem 
as if every one of our deeds is hopelessly enmeshed in selfishness and cannot be pleasing 
to God. We can be exposed to a real struggle with self-rejection and the type of ex- 
cruciating anxiety it brings. And here is where self-love through CHARITY enters the scene. 
We can and will find a "new self" in God, and as we gradually approach that point, our 
anxieties also diminish. 

"But the man who lives by the truth 

comes out into the light, 

so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God." 

In our day, "coming out into the light" can include using the solid insights of con- 
temporary humanistic and Christian psychology in order to be more docile to the guidance 
of the Holy Spirit. What can we learn here? I think, a few yery helpful distinctions, 
and for these I am greatly indebted to Fr. Fabio Giardini, O.P. of the Angel icum. 

1. We can distinguish between self-awareness (the subject who knows that she knows) and 
intentional awareness ( the object known ). 

2. Within the range of intentional awareness, we can grasp only a few of the objects of 
consciousness at "full center". The rest remain on the margin of consciousness, more 
"sensed" than clearly conceived, unless we focus attention on them. 

3. What is known as the "unconscious" pertains to these marginal regions. Also called 
the "subconscious" and takes in the whole field of psychic experience not present to 
the actual awareness of the person. The subconscious includes the "preconscious" - 
elements which can be recalled through ordinary means, such as meditation; and the 
"unconscious" - out of reach except through special means such as psychotherapy on 
the natural level, and the working of the Spirit on the supernatural level. 

Our unconscious life is not the seat of merely libidinal drives as Freud believed. It 
includes "side by side, the most animal instincts of man, his least explicable powers, 
and his most spiritual intuitions." In other words, the "unconscious" is the core or 
depth self in which we meet both God and the whole range of our own humanity. It is 
possible even to say that within the Christian context of God dwelling within us, the 
"unconscious" is the "place" of His dwelling. So when we speak of a Life of Prayer, we 
are actually talking about two different realities ( although they interpenetrate one 
another ): 1. attentiveness: the conscious mind focusing on a particular object. 

2. awareness: the subconscious or unconscious mind perceiving some form of 
reality in a diffuse manner, without focusing on it. 
Our daily life is made up of an incessant flow between attentiveness and awareness. 
Attentiveness involves our critical faculties, discursive and analytical reason. Awareness 
involves perception and sometimes intuitive judgment. 

In prayer, attentiveness is needed for ACTS of faith, hope, charity, etc. Awareness 
covers a broader and deeper field: an obscure, pervasive attitude of Faith always ready 
to come to the surface when needed. But as Father Giardini notes, 


"The awareness of prayerful ness is in itself not only religious consciousness but a new 
and higher consciousness in which the reality of God becomes manifest." But this can 
happen without explicit attentiveness. "Then prayer, supported by faith alone, must go 
out into this silent darkness and maintain itself there." And it is this PASSING from 
explicit attention to God to an obscure awareness of Him which can cause some of the 
deepest anxiety known to contemplatives. It is a question of "simple exposure" to God 
even when we cannot focus attention upon Him in any conceptual way. But as this habit of 
returning to prayerful awareness increases, anxiety diminishes. We get acclimatized to the 
darkness and begin to love what we find there - both God and self. 

"This non-attentive, non-complete awareness, which is the life of prayer, is 
often experienced as the mere standing before God in faith, and is the special 
preconscious awareness in which the first essential dimension of the attitude 
of prayerful ness consists." 

The above applies to the intellect and its forms of knowing in prayer. A similar dynamic 
occurs in the will. "Thus from the will ( and emotions ) of the person springs a response 
to the presence of God which is correlative and complementary to the awareness through 
which the intellect ( and imagination ) is responding to the presence of God." In the 
will we can have a) actual devotion - acts of deliberate choice focusing on the love of 
God; or b) a virtual "being-in-love" , a permanent orientation towards God as Good. And 
in this respect, Father notes: 

"As long as the response of the will to the presence of God remains only at the 
level of deliberate choice, the acts of devotion are bound to be intermittent. 
But once we allow our response of love to the caring presence of God to take hold 
of the depths of our will, we shall become permanently involved with Him. It will 
not be quite as easy for us to go on forgetting Him,... and our will will begin to 
be transformed at its roots." 

So devotion is an act of the will following upon attention in the intellect. "Being-in- 
love" with God is a permanent attitude of heart consequent upon the pervasive awareness 
of God's presence maintained below the threshold of consciousness. At this lower level 
of prayerful ness, loving and knowing seem to merge into one another and do not appear 
as clearly distinguishable. "In such a profound and pervasive spiritual experience, 
knowledge and love are so intimately united that they can be actually identified with 
each other." 

In view of the distinction between our conscious acts and our unconscious attitudes, 
we can grasp better how it is possible to speak of "unconscious prayer" - a simple 
gaze of the heart accompanied by love, dispensing with images and concepts or any delib- 
erate acts. While such prayer lasts, the person may not perceive what she is doing. 
Is unconscious prayer the same as "preconscious" prayer? No, for in unconscious prayer 
awareness is totally involved with God and there is no self-reflexion. But in "precon- 
scious" prayer, BOTH conscious awareness ( the subject knowing that she knows and loves ) 
and intentional awareness ( the object known and loved ) "leave the level of deliberate 
consciousness and plunge into the unconscious level of the spirit. So, in "unconscious" 
prayer ATTENTION is totally absorbed by God. In "Preconscious" prayer, the whole movement 
is below consciousness. But both forms represent a "breakthrough" beyond ACTS of prayer, 
or acts of deliberate consciousness. Unconscious prayer ( e.g. rapture ) plunges us into 
the transcendent mystery of God. Preconscious prayer plunges us into the hidden depths of 
the human spirit in which God dwells - immanent mystery of God. 


What is the conclusion to these reflections? 

"Christians whose prayer is hidden, unconscious and wordless cannot tell whether 
they are praying or not. Their feeling of God's presence may have disappeared so 
completely that they may think they have never experienced it. They may be in a 
state where there is not any attentive awareness of God, and a seemingly con- 
scious response to Him is impossible." - And that, for sure, can cause a massive dose 
of anxiety unless we understand what is happening! Father adds, 

"Such an experience may be either that form of 'perfect prayer' which Christians 
go through during the 'dark night' of the spirit or the subconscious attitude 
of prayerful ness, namely that sort of breathing of the spirit in the presence 
of God through daily occupations which is as uninterrupted, as unconscious, and 
as real as the breath of our body when we are concentrating on performing actions 
which demand all our attention." 

As the life of contemplation deepens, we pass back and forth between these STATES of 
prayer, just as we also "surface" now and then and focus on explicit ACTS of prayer. It 
is a mutual relationship of growing intimacy. And I believe we could \/ery well say that 
this is an in-depth experience of just what Our Lord was talking about to Nicodemus: 

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. 
You hear its sound, 

but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. 
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit." 

Did Nicodemus allow himself to be drawn by the Lord into the "great plunge" of Faith 
which opens up these levels of unconscious awareness? I suspect that he did. For when 
the final test came, he did come forward with Joseph to claim the Lord's Body and prepare 
Him for burial. Grace had been working secretly all along the way. And I don't for a 
minute doubt that he became a recipient of full Pentecostal Faith in the Lord after the 
resurrection and Descent of the Spirit. It is much the same with us as we let our anxieties 
dissolve in an ever deepening intimacy "unknown" to our conscious selves ( save in split- 
second insights ) but growing continuously in our core selves. It is, in fact, the 
rooting of the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity within the reality of 
sanctifying grace, the moral virtues and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. A gradual but very 
real transformation of the whole person does take place. And primary needs for self- 
knowledge are fulfilled by Faith } needs for self-acceptance are met by Hope; needs for 
self-love are satisfied by Charity. This is the healing of anxiety in its most profound 



' andyinc and ederl/ Qxtittq creature-' 
r (^itsAdiSeajyni^ifkQpenaTit 

lagttng QOenant Stfutaen 


Sister Mary Dolores, O.P, 
North Guilford 

The Biblical concept of covenant is much too vast to treat of briefly, but I hope this 
little presentation will be enough to encourage you to go deeper into this theme yourself. 

Israel in its sacred history expressed its special relationship with God by the idea of 
covenant. In the Old Testament the Hebrew word "berith" (covenant) designates either an 
economic-political alliance, of which there are many instances in Scripture, or a theologi- 
cal alliance. The economic-political alliances were of two types: the parity treaty 
entered into by equals and involoving perfect reciprocity, and the more common suzerainty 
pact. A suzerain and his vassal seal an alliance by a promise of protection from the lord 
and an oath of fealty from his subjects. 

The Biblical concern is not so much with a contract as with a divinely guaranteed promise. 
It is essentially a gracious act of God by which He binds Himself to a certain course of 
action in reference to the world or to Israel, implying a bestowal of blessings and the 
revelation of His will. It establishes a close personal relationship governed by God's 
covenant love (hesed) , His loving kindness, His steadfast love; and by man's and woman's 
answer of self-giving, loving trust, joyful submission to the will of God and an active 
charity to his or her fellow men or women. 

God wishes to lead all people to a life of communion with Him, and then ultimately to 
establish the Kingdom of God on earth. God's way of dealing with His people through men 
(Abraham, Moses, David, and Christ the Man-God) was by means of covenants, also called 
pacts, treaties, or testaments. God took man's way of dealing with man and adapted it to 
the supernatural. He was not introducing something new. But Israel and God do not in any 
real sense meet on equal terms. God is bound by His promises only because He makes them. 
He is bound to Himself because He cannot be false to His promises. It is only in this 
sense that we can speak of a bilateral covenant between God and man. 


The Sinai tic covenant was based upon the suzerainty pact, as between a king and his vassals. 
Covenants are always initiated by God out of His goodness; they show forth His goodness, 
and are always for man and woman's good. Once one breaks a covenant with God, all one can 
do is hope that God in His goodness and love will forgive and initiate a new one. 

A series of covenants make up our biblical salvation history--the covenants with Adam, Noah, 
Abraham, Moses, and finally, the new and everlasting covenant with, through, and in Christ. 
With the tacit covenant with Adam, God shows His goodness by creating man 'in the image and 
likeness of God' and by giving him dominion over all living creatures. In the covenant with 
Noah after the flood, God shows His goodness by giving to man as food *every creature that 
moves and lives", but "flesh with its life, i.e., its blood" he is not to eat. The covenant 
with Abraham emphasizes God's goodness by the promise of a great progeny (the Israelite 
nation) and by the promise of the land of Canaan. In the covenant at Sinai, God's great 
gift to His kingdom of priests is twofold--the law and the land. 

The initial relation between God and man , disrupted by Adam, is restored by future covenants; 
partially by the second covenant with the fami ly of Abraham; more fully by the Sinaitic cov- 
enant made with the Israelite nation ; completely by the last covenant, the New Testament, in 
which not merely one man, or one family, or even one nation, but al 1 mankind , one with Christ 
is called to form THE kingdom of God on earth. 

At the end of this presentation there is a chart showing the relation between the different 
covenants. A comment on the rainbow, the sign of Noah's covenant; the ancients imagined 
the rainbow as God's weapon, His bow from which the lightnings of His arrows were shot. 
God places His weapon, His battle-bow in the heavens as a sign, a visible token that His 
wrath has abated. The sign is cosmic and reminds one that God's mercy will never be checked 
by one's sinfulness; a most consoling thought. 

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 is notable as to what God's covenant with Israel implies. The covenant 
is ratified with the sprinkling of the blood of victims and with a communal meal. (Ex. 2k: 
1-21) The conditions of the covenant are the ten commandments. Under Moses the covenant 
brings with it the obligation of fidelity to the law and to the Sabbath observance in partic- 
ular. The Sabbath is the sign forever of the Mosaic covenant. (See Ex. 31:16) The separa- 
tion of one day in seven is a symbol of the separation of the entire people, of its consecra- 
tion to God; it is the perpetual memorial of the agreement between them and Yahweh who 
sanctifies them. 

Moses is the mediator between God and man; he unites them symbolically by sprinkling the 
blood of the same victim first on the altar, which represents Yahweh, and then on the people. 
In this way the pact is ratified by the blood which is considered as the life-principle, just 
as the new covenant is ratified by the blood of Christ. Later Yahweh granted His covenant 
to David and to his dynasty only on the condition that the covenant of Sinai be faithfully 
observed. The thought of the covenant is the directing idea which serves as a basis for all 
later religious reforms. 

The message of the prophets referred constantly to the covenant. If they unanimously de- 
nounced the infidelity of Israel toward her God, if they preached the catastrophies which 
threatened a sinful people, it was because of the pact of Sinai to which the people had 
agreed. But to keep alive the doctrine of the covenant in the spirit of their contempor- 
aries, the prophets brought out some new aspects which the ancient tradition contained 
only in a virtual state. The prophets enlivened the covenant with emotional overtones by 
searching human experience for other analogies to explain the mutual relationships of God 
and His people. Israel is the flock, and Yahweh the shepherd; Israel is the son, and Yahweh 
the father; Israel is the spouse, and Yahweh the bridegroom. These images make the Sinaitic 
covenant appear as an encounter of love; the attentive and gratuitous love of God, calling 
in return for a love which will translate itself into obedience. 


In consequence of the infidelity of Israel the ancient pact was found broken, jusL like a 
marriage which fails because of the adulteries of the wife (Hosea 2). There then emerges 
the prophetic idea of a NEW COVENANT, already described in Hosea 2:18-25. He called this 
to mind under the aspects of a new bethrothal, which would bring to the bride—love, justice!! 
fidelity, knowledge of God, and which would re-establish peace between man and the rest of 

In the New Covenant God would bring about a profound remission of sin (Jer. 31:33) and would 
write His law on man's heart, that is, He would bring it about that in each person an interior 
force would carry him spontaneously to obedience and knowledge of God. Yet for Ezechiel the 1- 
New Covenant is to be a renewal of the one made at the Exodus. 

Isaiah describes the Servant of Yahweh as "the Covenant of the people" (42:6), the bond, the; 
mediator uniting them to God, the embodiment of a new covenant. It is through him that God 
will make Himself known and communicate His final revelation. This was fully realized in 
Jesus, who in His own person, united the Lord and His people. By shedding His blood on the 
cross, Jesus fulfilled the covenant sealed on Mt. Sinai by the blood of the sacrifice; He 
also announced implicitly that the New Covenant predicted by the prophets is accomplished. 

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NEW COVENANT BY JESUS: The Eucharistic action of Jesus continues and 
fulfills the whole Old Testament history that was dominated by the idea of covenant. It is 
a covenant meal in the fullest sense, for God is actually sharing His divine life with us. 
The word "diatheke" figures in the four stories of the last supper in a context of unique 
importance. After having taken bread and distributed it saying "Take and eat, this is My 
body," Jesus took the cup of wine, blessed it and passed it around. "This is My blood, the 
blood of the "diatheke", covenant, which will be shed for many." The passing of the cup is 
a ritual gesture. From this it is evident that Jesus regards Himself as the suffering Ser- 
vant and understands His death as an atoning sacrifice (is. 53:10). "Blood of the covenant 1 
also recalls that the covenant of Sinai had been concluded in blood, (Ex. 2^:3); for the 
sacrifices of animals was substituted a new sacrifice, the blood of which would efficacious 
achieve a definitive union between God and men. It is by the eucharistic participation, 
accomplished by faith, that we will be united most intimately to the mystery of the New 

The covenantal action of Jesus in the Eucharist is not static but dynamic; it is a continued 
mediation by Him. The sacrifice of the New Covenant is not just a simple communion rite, 
but an expiation, or an efficacious sacrifice of communion, capable of truly bringing human?l 
to God precisely because it is capable of bringing about a true and radical expiation of sins 
This is developed in Hebrews 9 where the mission of Jesus as mediator of the New Covenant is 
explained in the light of the sacrificial rite of the Day of Atonement. 

A banquet is the normal climax of a treaty, pact, or festival. In the New Covenant, then, 

sins are taken away; God dwells among His people; He changes their hearts and places in ther| 

His Spirit. It is consummated in the wedding of the Lamb and the Church, His Spouse (Rev. 
21:2-9). So — covenant speaks of sonship, of love, of communion. 

Summing up then; the theology of covenant in the Bible is consistently a theology of DIVINE 
PROMISE. Several times daily we pray "that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, 
Hebrews tells us that "He who made the promise is worthy of our trust." Let us then, put 
great hope in these promises. May the Holy Spirit give us deeper insights into covenant, arjj 
draw us into a more intimate covenant relationship. May we be faithful to this covenant, fc 
it is in faithfulness that we shall know the Lord. 

Berith — Hebrew word for covenant. 
Diatheke--Greek word for covenant, or testament 


This outline shows the relation between the different covenants and their progressive 
ordination toward the perfection of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, as we know 
it now. It is taken from THE MEN AND THE MESSAGE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT , by Peter F. Ellis, 
C.SS.R., page 30.) "' " 

Kingdom of God 
Grace of God 
Test Stage 

a) conditional 

b) bi lateral 

c) penalty; death 

d) some fami 1 iar i ty 


Mankind's future, however, is assured by the promise given in the proto- 
evangel (Gen. 3:15). 


Kingdom of God 
Grace of Christ 
Foundation stage: 

a) absolute—fulfilled in Christ and the Church 

b) one family, potentially universal 

c) outward sign: circumcision 

d) limited familiarity; theophanies 


Kingdom of God 
Grace of Christ 
Elaboration stage 

a) conditional, broken 

b) one nation, potentially universal 

c) external sign: circumcision 

d) much greater familiarity: 

1. God present with them in 
the Ark and Tabernacle 

2. God Himself is ruler 

3. Vicars: priests, prophets, 



Kingdom of Christ 
Grace of Christ 
Completion stage 

a) absolute and eternal 

b) all people 

c) external sign: baptism 

d) greatest possible familiarity: 

1 . one Mystical Body 

2. indwelling of the Blessed Trinity 

3. ruler: Christ the King 
k. vicar: the Pope 

At the STAGE OF ULTIMATE PERFECTION, Head and members reign triumphantly in 
heaven, and the Kingdom of Christ is handed back to the Father. (1 Cor. 15:22-28) 

Note: Other books list five covenants, the second being that with Noah. This covenant 
shows the loving care of God for all His creation and appears as a new creation. The rain- 
bow is its emblem and it involves all of creation. 


Bibl iography: 

Dictionary of Biblical Theology , Dufour, S.J. 

New Catholic Encyclopedia 

Men and Message of the Old Testament , Ellis, C.SS.R. 

The Eucharist: The Bread of Life, Lussier, S.S.S. 


He Sings In Silence 

0, speak the Word within my waiting soul 
Breathe there the love You ever inspirate 
Sing there the song that is substantial song 
Draw me the wine that doth inebriate. . . 

Image Thyself within a mind serene 
Live there, dark Lord, by no man seen, 
Light there the Light that fuses Into Love 
Burn there a Flame that never dies. . . 

Fuse into a flawless Will this failing will 
Flame into a silent song. . '. 

Sister Frances Clare, O.P. 

This poem was put to music by 
Virginia 3. Pados, Mus.M. , and is avail- 
able upon request. 



Sister Mary Rose Dominic, O.P. 
Summi t 


St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians touched upon the question of 
identity when he said: "Now there are bodies celestial and bodies terrestrial: 
but one is the glory of the celestial, and another of the terrestrial. One is 
the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, and another the glory of 
the stars. For star differs from star in glory" (I Cor. 15:40-41 ) . When we con- 
template the mystery of the Church, we find therein a reflection of that cosmic 
mystery of the material universe cited by the apostle. The number and variety 
of religious institutes are very great, and each glorifies God by its own specific 

To St. Dominic was given the predestined mission of contemplating through 
prayer and study the mystery of God, of being concerned with the truth of God, 
and of defending this truth by preaching, teaching and the manifold works of the 
apostolic ministry against those who would deny God's existence or his authorship 
of creation. In the fulfillment of his mission he founded a religious order whose 
vocation it would be to continue his work in future ages. This order became known 
as 'The Friars Preachers', whose vocation it was to guard the integrity of the 
faith, by the study, teaching and defense of sacred doctrine. Since by its very 
nature the Order was given to the study of sacred truth, it was necessarily 
contemplative , but the vocation to spread and defend the teachings of the faith 
gave it also an active or apostolic character. 

Every branch of the Order was dedicated to this specific goal, though each 
in a different manner and degree. The fathers were ordained to this mission in 
the fullest sense, being required by their profession to actively preach, teach and 
defend the faith. The active sisterhoods and all affiliated institutes and 
congregations participated in a lesser degree in this apostolic vocation which 
was the vocation of St. Dominic. But where did the contemplative nuns stand? 
What type of witness or ministry did St. Dominic envision for them? Where did 
they fit in the structure of the Dominican Family? Here we touch upon the 
identity of the Dominican contemplative nun. 


Where can the Dominican contemplative nun look to discover her identity; 
that is, to discover what type of life St. Dominic envisioned for her? We can 
truly say in answer to this question that there is no more authentic source in 
which to discover her identity that the rule and constitutions which were designed 
by the founder for the nuns of his Order. The cloistered nun can regard the Rule 
of St. Augustine as the rule of St. Dominic for her because it expresses his basic 
concept of the religious life as he would have her follow it. 

The Constitutions, especially the basic Constitution, deals in more detail 
with the various aspects and observances of the Dominican contemplative life. 
Despite the passage of centuries, and the various emendations and redactions to 
which these Constitutions have been subjected during that time, they essentially 
express today the original idea of St. Dominic for the life of his contemplative nuns 


Our holy father St. Dominic chose the cenobitic life for his religious, as 
distinct from the eremetical, which is proper to certain institutes within the 
Church: the Camaldolese or the Carthusians, for example. St. Dominic was eminently 


a 'family man' if we might say so, and he based his concept of the religious life 
on the idea of the family, after the pattern of God himself who made family life 
the basis of all human society. While there is an eremetical element in every 
religious vocation, that element is usually confined within the precincts of the 
individual soul, not in the external structure of the monastic life, except in 
the case of certain specific institutes. This is eminently true of Dominican 
monastic life. It is truly a 'common life'. 


Our holy father never intended the observances of the common life to be an 
end in themselves. Each and every observance was designed to achieve the goal of 
his religious family. In the case of the cloistered nun this goal was twofold, 
namely: 1. the sanctification of the individual nun and her ultimate union with God 
through the practice of prayer, penance, and the observances of the common life, 
and 2. the sanctification of the Church and the spread and preservation of the 
faith through the witness of her life and the efficacy of her prayer. The aim 
and goal of the Dominican contemplative nun could be summed up very well in the 
words of the following hymn. Verses one and two give the aim and verse three 
gives the goal : 

Oh, to see with the eye of the eagle! 
Oh, to drink of the crystal seal 
Oh, to witness to thy glory, 
To guard thy works faithfully. 

Oh, to eat of the hidden manna! 
To sing the silent song. 
Oh, to shine near the Lamp of heaven! 
To dwell in the light of the Lamb. 

Oh Jesus, joy of angels, 
Thy face I long to see, 
When the day of time is ended, 
In the halls of eternity. 

(Verses 1 and 2 by Thomas a Kempis Reilly, 0. P. -1879-1957. 
Verse 3 by Sr. Mary Rose Dominic of Jesus, O.P.) 


On order to get a clearer likeness of the Dominican cloistered nun, we must 
first look at the basic elements of the religious life that mold her according to 
the ideal of St. Dominic. For just as in the material order the physical elements 
of climate, geographic location, etcetera, act upon and help to mold the physical 
features of the inhabitants of the various regions of the world, so the elements 
of religious observance as envisioned by the founder of an order or institute 
help to mold the spiritual likeness of his disciples. The Jesuit is not a Domin- 
ican, nor the Dominican a Franciscan. The spiritual likeness of each differs 
according to the spirit of the founder. Let us look then at the basic elements 
of the cloistered life as envisioned by St. Dominic, since they give the Dominican 
cloistered nun her particular 'Dominican' identity. 


First to be considered in the observance of religious enclosure. St. Dominic 
attached great importance to the observance of enclosure in the life of his con- 
templative nuns in order to establish and preserve that atmosphere of peace and 
silence which are indispensable to a life of contemplation. For, enclosure is 
the guardian of silence, as silence is the guardian of prayer. 


It is impossible in the culture of today, however, to observe enclosure as 
it was observed in the days of our holy Father. Yet, the spirit of enclosure as he en- 
visioned it is quite possible to all, and is still one of the most valuable assets 
of the cloistered life. To abide by the spirit of enclosure today both the Church 
and the Order require of the cloistered religious a prudent vigilance in everything 
that concerns the material enclosure itself and in all of those observances which 
touch indirectly upon it, that is, those which involve contact with the secular 
world. These latter would include, for example, the matter of secular reading, 
the viewing of audio-visual programs, letter writing, parlor visiting, and family 
contacts. In view of the new legislation which allows so much wider latitude to 
religious in the matter of enclosure, much of the responsibility for the faithful 
observance of it will rest with the individual sister herself. As regards the actual 
enclosure itself, the Church requires that all ingress and egress to and from the 
monastery be limited to what is strictly necessary. 

In the matter of reading, too, especially secular reading, a prudent vigilance 
is recommended to the individual sister to enable her to preserve that purity, 
peace and tranquillity of soul which are necessary to her contemplative life. It 
requires both honesty and circumspection on her part to discern what quality of 
secular reading, and how much is necessary, in order to keep validly informed of 
important secular issues, as the Constitutions suggest. The same holds true in the 
matter of viewing audio-visual programs. Lack of prudence or over indulgence in 
this matter could quickly destroy the peace of soul of the individual sister, or 
even of the entire community. 

With regard to the question of letter writing, the Constitutions require that 
the demands of justice and charity be fulfilled, but unrestricted letter writing 
should be avoided. This could cause distraction of mind to the individual sister 
and in the end accomplish nothing for those whom it was intended to help. 


Love of one's own kindred is a natural instinct implanted in the human heart 
by God himself, and hence the obligation to love one's family is of its very nature 
sacred. But this instinct to show the proper reverence and appreciation for one's 
family and kindred has to be regulated, both in the interests of the individual 
sister herself and of the whole community. 

With regard to this matter it is well to remember that the One who placed the 
instinct of familial affection in the heart of the human person also said: "He who 
loves father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or 
daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Mt. 10:37). And again the Holy Spirit 
counseled against too much preoccupation with one's family when through the inspired 
psalmist he said: "Listen, oh daughter, and incline your ear, and forget your own 
people and your father's house, and the king shall greatly desire your beauty" 
Ps. 45:11-12). These divine admonitions were intended to regulate, not to destroy, 
family affection. Charity and justice have their place in the matter of showing love 
and appreciation of one's family, but too much preoccupation with their multiple 
concerns and cares can distract the heart of the contemplative nun that had once 
emptied itself for God and thus prove seriously harmful to her life of prayer. 

With the greater sense of responsibility expected of the individual religious 
today, the obligation of regulating the frequency and duration of parlor visiting 
may rest largely upon the sister herself, so that a prudent vigilance on her part 
may be necessary to determine how much contact with family or relatives is required 
by justice and charity, and how much, in the last analysis, is useless or peripheral. 



Enclosure and its related observances might be regarded as the outer ramparts 
of the cloistered life; while silence is the great inner rampart without which any 
monastic contemplative life would crumble to ruin. As with everything else, our 
holy Father St. Dominic is the great exemplar of contemplative silence within the 
Order. It was said of him that he rarely spoke except to God or of God. Considering 
the multiple concerns and contacts which the demands of his apostolic vocation made 
upon him this was truly extraordinary and, more than anything else perhaps, shows 
the great regard in which he held contemplative silence in the life of the individual 

The cloistered Dominican nun who is truly a child of St. Dominic should have 
the same regard for this basic observance of the contemplative life. Dominican 
contemplative silence has a character all its own. It is not the solemn, isolated 
silence of the Carthusian or Camaldolese monk, but rather the quiet, peaceful silence 
of attention to God on the part of the nun in the heart of the monastic family. 

This silence creates and sheds around itself that peace and tranquillity which 
are indispensable for the living of a truly contemplative life. To be effective 
it must touch every area of the monastic life, beginning with material silence of 
speech and action in the day to day routine of the monastic horarium. This material 
silence is not an end in itself, however, but is rather intended to create an atmos- 
phere of quiet within the soul of the religious which will be conducive to contemp- 
lative prayer. As some spiritual authors have said, 'Silence is not the absence of 
speech but the presence of God.' Where silence is well observed the monastic life 
flourishes; where it is badly observed it withers and dies. 


The main object of silence, as we have said, is to prepare the soul of the I 
individual religious for contemplative prayer. For prayer is the great goal of 
Dominican contemplative life. Indeed, the motto of the Order is: "To contemplate, • 
and to give to others the fruits of contemplation." St. Dominic's ideal for his | 
nuns included both vocal and mental prayer as integral parts of the daily schedule. 
The monastic day revolved around the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, 
and was enriched and solemnized by the choral recitation or chanting of the Divine 
Office. The monastic family prayed in the name of and for the needs of the universal 
Church, even as it does today. 

It is held, moreover, by almost universal tradition that the rosary was given 
by our Lady to St. Dominic, who in turn bequeathed it to his children as a treasured 
form of simple meditation on the mystery of salvation. Since his time it has held ■ 
an honored place in all Dominican life, especially in that of his cloistered daughters.] 
A contemplative branch of the Order known as Dominican Sisters of the Perpetual Rosary 
was founded at the end of the last century by the French Dominican, Father Damien 
Saintourens. It flourishes to this day in the United States, thus keeping alive 
the precious heritage originally given by St. Dominic to his children. 

10. STUDY 

Study can be regarded as a form of Dominican prayer, for as St. Dominic, and 
indeed many Fathers of the Church before him realized, if properly approached and 
pursued, it places one in the presence of God and disposes the soul for the gift 
of contemplation. Like every other observance in the religious life, study was in- 
tended by our holy father to serve a yery specific purpose. He never interided his 
religious to study simply for the sake of knowledge. The primary aim of all study 
in his mind was to bring the individual soul close to God, to the contemplation of 
his divine beauty, and to abide in his love. 



The primary source for the study of divine truth is Sacred Scripture, for e^ery 
work on the spiritual life of the Church springs from the Scriptures as from a 
primal source. When it comes to the material from which to choose for lectio divina, 
not everyone is drawn in the same way since the Holy Spirit distributes his gifts 
differently to all. Thus one sister will be attracted to one type of reading and 
another to that. One will be interested in mystical theology, another will be drawn 
to the study of Church history, while still another will be drawn to the study of 
the Scriptures themselves. But to whatever type of study one is drawn, it is im- 
portant to realize that without the enlightening grace of the Holy Spirit all study 
is vain and devoid of real fruit. 

The individual person who approaches study, whether it be that of Sacred 
Scripture or other spiritual work, is like the unlighted candle standing in the 
darkness awaiting the touch of a living hand to kindle it into flame. It is only 
then that the objects which surround it are revealed. In like manner the content 
of the Sacred Scriptures or of any spiritual work appears lifeless until the grace 
of the Holy Spirit reveals its inner meaning. When study is pursued with single- 
ness of heart, that is, with the intention of pleasing God alone, it prepares the 
soul for the marvelous gift of contemplation, for it fosters meditation which is a 
stepping stone to that crowning grace of prayer. 


The soul who begins to practice the art of mental prayer by simple meditation 
on the mystery of God and his works is like a person who scans the starlit firma- 
ment with unaided vision. While she can undoubtedly see a considerable portion of 
the heavens in this manner, there is yet much that she cannot see. But suppose 
that while she was thus engaged someone approached and allowed her to view the 
heavens through a telescope: what an overwhelming difference that would make! Her 
vision would be immeasurably enlarged and sharpened, thus revealing vast horizons 
and celestial wonders which without the aid of the telescope would remain forever 
unknown. That is something like what happens in contemplation. By the enlighten- 
ing power of a greater grace God enlarges the spiritual vision of the soul, so that 
in this new light it may perceive mysteries hitherto unknown. It is God's action 
which makes this possible. 

Thus we see that the gift of contemplation is the crowning grace of all prayer 
and study. It is the work of God more than of the individual soul. Indeed it can- 
not be earned by the soul's personal efforts more demanded as a just reward for her 
labors. She can prepare herself for this gift by fidelity to mental and vocal prayer, 
but the bestowal of the gift is an act of God alone. 


We could say that the mystery of Eden is renewed in the case of the sould who 
sets herself to the contemplation of divine truth. Endeavoring to ponder the 
mystery of God and of his works, she is like the wise virgin of the Gospel who 
enters the silence of Eden, pitcher in hand, to take her place by the mystic spring 
thereine and to contemplate its mysterious depths, hoping to take away a copious 
supply of its mystic waters. For the primal spring of Eden was a symbol of the 
mystery of God, unfathomable, everflowing, inexhaustible. The pitcher which she 
brings to the spring is the vessel of her own heart. If her vessel is empty, she 
can draw from these inexhaustible waters a copious supply of grace. If it is not 
empty, or only partially empty, her supply will be correspondingly less. This is 
a graphic image of the motto of the Dominican Order: "To contemplate, and to give 
to others the fruits of contemplation." For only that religious who has drawn copi- 
ously from the spring of God's hidden mystery can truly give to others the fruits 
of her contemplation. 




Our holy Father St. Dominic held the virtue of penance in very great esteem . 
and personally practiced penance himself. He fasted, scourged himself, and deprived 
himself of much needed sleep in order to spend the night in prayer before the 
blessed Sacrament or leaning his head against the altar. In imitation of his example 
therefore, the practice of penance holds a very important place in the life of the 
Dominican nun. 

From the very beginning of the Order this tradition of penance has been pre- 
served, though its external forms have differed to some extent from one century 
to another. Particularly today many of the external forms practiced in St. Dominic's 
day or even in the centuries which followed would appear harsh and forbidding, and 
indeed would be quite impossible for the average religious. Yet the moral, psycho- 
logical and spiritual need for penance is as real today as it was in former ages. 
To meet this need the Church advises that other forms of penance more in keeping 
with the physical strength and cultural outlook of today replace the harsher forms 
of penance of former times. 

A surer and safer penance for the cloistered nun of today would seem to be 
the silent and consistent effort to remain faithful to the observances of the 
religious life, especially to those elements which are indispensable for the 
preservation of monastic discipline, and for the safeguarding of the peace and 
tranquillity of the monastic family. This type pf penance constitutes no danger 
to physical health, nor does it minister to pride or vanity, for it usually passes 
unnoticed; but even when it is observed by others, no one ever thinks of congratu- 
lating the religious on her fidelity. It is taken as a matter of course. 

What is important for the cloistered nun of today is that she preserve the 
spirit and intention of St. Dominic in all her exercises of penance, that is, 
that her penance be ordered to her own sanctification and that of the whole 
Church. Thus she will be able to make up for what is wanting in the sufferings 
of Christ for those who neglect the most basic obligations of their Christian 
vocation, (cf. Col. 1:24). 

15. WORK 

The idea and necessity of work for religious is as old as Christianity itself. 
St. Paul warned the Christians of Thessalonica that "if any man will not work, 
neither let him eat (2 Thess.3:10). Pope Pius XII likewise, in his exhortation 
to cloistered religious, Sponsa Chris ti , stressed the need of work which is com- 
patible with their state of life, in order to contribute to their own material 
support; and the Second Vatican Council reiterated this fact. 

For the cloistered nun it is important that she have a clear idea of the 
place which work held in St. Dominic's thought for his religious. Prior to his 
time manual labor held a primary place in monastic life, but with his keen intel- 
lectual perception he clearly saw that a far more important occupation for religious 
was the activity of the intellect because, as we have said before, he realized 
that the root couase of the evil in the Church was a lack of authentic knowledge 
of the Christian faith. To guard the integrity of the faith a knowledge of sound 
doctrine was essential, and to gain such knowledge adequate time for study was 
needed. Hence he gave study priority of place in the monastic horarium of the 
Fathers, wherein it actually replaced the traditional manual labor of the monastic 

In this departure from tradition our holy Father did not intend to deny the 
necessity of work, or the benefit to be derived therefrom; he merely placed prior- 
ities in their proper order in view of the end which he had proposed for his own 


Order. He did not disdain manual labor, much less dispense his religious from it, 
but it was to occupy a secondary place in Dominican monastic life. 

In keeping with St. Dominic's ideal, therefore, the Order requires that the 
Dominican nun appreciate and engage in some useful work to contribute to her own 
support, and a just remuneration should be expected for it. Her work, moreover, 
should bear that stamp of efficiency and perfection which both the Church and 
secular society expect from a consecrated woman. The ideal for the Dominican nun 
with regard to work should be to view all material labor as another aspect of her 


At the present time there seems to be a certain amount of misunderstanding 
about the need for recreation and the place it should hold in Dominican monastic 
life. One look at the facts, however, will immediately reveal that it was part of 
St. Dominic's vision for his nuns. To begin with, he based his concept of religious 
life on the cenobitic or familial tradition, and hence recreation is an essential 
part of his monastic structure. Indeed, it was said of him that no one was more 
joyful in the Lord, and we know that he recreated with his nuns. 

Whether we view the question of recreation on a natural or a supernatural 
plane, we find that it has a very important function in the life of the average 
individual. It is in reality the human aspect of a fundamental cosmic law oper- 
ative throughout the universe. For nature itself provides a time of rest for all 
living things in which their depleted strength can be restored, and the physical 
weariness resulting from toil and hardship can be renewed in vigor. Thus night 
follows day in order that labor may be followed by rest. 

On the human plane, recreation is literally intended to re-create the individual 
as the word indicates. It is intended to rebuild what has been worn down by the 
toil and hardship of daily life, to calm frayed nerves, and to restore the over- 
wrought emotions to a proper balance. Science itself admits this basic need of the 
individual as a safeguard to both mental and physical health, and the Church in 
her canon law requires it for the same reason in the case of her religious. 

In the life of contemplative religious, especially, there is a wery important 
need for an adequate amount of recreation, due to the natural tension which the 
enclosed life and the absence of outside contacts creates. It would be unwise, 
therefore, under any pretext whatever, to dismiss the idea of recreation as being 
unnecessary or at least peripheral for the cloistered nun. True, there are many 
who argue that in view of the culture of today with its multiple possibilities of 
diversion the traditional familial type of recreation is unnecessary, since the 
business contacts of the religious provide the necessary emotional outlet or diver- 
sion, that is, a means of getting out of onself. That may well be true in the case 
of the monastery officials whose office makes there contacts possible, but there 
are many sisters to whom such contacts are not possible. These also must be pro- 
vided for. The very silence and solitude of the life of enclosure, if faithfully 
observed, is the greatest argument in favor of an adequate amount of recreation at 
fixed periods during the day, for this is the best safeguard to the observance of 
a good monastic silence. 

There is^much talk today about the Dominican Family, but where can the family 
spirit better be fostered than in the daily recreations? Or how can we say we are a 
family if we refuse to meet or greet each other in a family gathering? Recreation 
is a wonderful means of fostering and preserving the common life which is an essential 
part of St. Dominic's vision for his religious. To be in the company of the sisters 
we Jove, merely to hear their voices and to see the true sisterly affection upon 


their faces are among the greatest blessings of the religious life. Then there is 
the added blessing of being enabled to know the sisters better during this period 
of sisterly sharing, and often too, recreation provides an excellent opportunity 
of helping to bear one another's burdens, as St. Paul counseled (Gal. 6:2). 

Despite its obvious blessings, however, one cannot deny that recreation, like 
every other religious observance, has its penitential aspect. This is true in the 
case of certain temperaments more than of others. To be quite honest, there are 
very few among us who, at one time or another, have not felt 'fed up' with every- 
one and everything, when the very sound of the chatter and excitement of recreation 
have set one's nerves on edge. Yet these emotional difficulties are only surface 
deep, for we love our sisters more than we realize perhaps, despite the differences 
of temperament or character, and they may need us at recreation even if we feel 
that we do not need them. Beneath all surface friction, there is a deep love and 
respect for those who share a common vision and a common goal. Which of us would 
not feel a deep sympathy for a sister who was suffering interiorly, or fail to 
speak a necessary word of encouragement at the opportune moment? But it is often 
during the period of recreation that such an opportunity presents itself. 

Practiced in the spirit of our holy father St. Dominic, with gratitude and 
joy, recreation can provide that much needed diversion for the relief of tension 
which is part of the life of any religious community. Who can assess the value 
of a joyful face at recreation, or estimate its effect upon other members of the 
community? It is in this particular area, perhaps, more than in any other sphere 
of community life, that the cloistered nun can imitate the joy of our holy Father 
of whom it was said that the very joy of his countenance was sufficient to make 
those who beheld him joyful. 


Today everyone is preoccupied with the question of renewal, and sometimes 
the very word is enough to make the tidal waves of controversy mount to perilous 
heights. In any discussion on renewal the average community falls into two . 
natural groups: those inclined to have more progressive ideas and those who are 
basically conservative. How is a nun to keep her balance in the tensions which 
inevitably result? 

In this important matter the safest guide would seem to be a study of the 
mind and thought of our holy father St. Dominic. How would he have reacted to 
the directives of the Second Vatican Council? Renewal did not begin with the 
recent Council; it has been operative in the Church since the days of the apostles. 
Any survey of Church history will make this clear. Through the ages, however, 
there have been certain chosen individuals and organs of authority within the 
Church whose divinely appointed mission or function was to renew the Church. The 
organs of renewal were the great general councils of the past, for example, the 
Council of Trent and Vatican Council I. Throughout the centuries there have also 
been great reformers in the Church raised up by God to save the faith in times of 
great peril. These were men like Hildebrand, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Francis, 
St. Dominic, and closer to our own times, Cardinal Newman. 


St. Dominic himself was chosen by God to be the author of a great renewal 
within the Church, a renewal whose repercussions are still being felt today. 
Having perceived the root of the evils in the Church in his day, he set about pro- 
viding an adequate and lasting remedy for them; and in so doing he was compelled 
by the \/ery nature of the circumstances to depart to a considerable degree from 
the accepted customs of monastic discipline of that time. Thus as mentioned above,, 
he replaced the traditional custom of manual labor with the study of sacred truth. 


He was, indeed, a great reformer, and his reform was an 'updating' of the Church's 
customs with regard to monastic life. What is important to remember, however, is 
that throughout the entire reform there was never a shadow of disdain on his part 
for the customs which he set aside nor of rivalry for those who were in the field 
of reform before him. Any such spirit would have dwarfed his stature and vision. 
Humble of heart, he was always willing to admit what was valid and worthwhile in 
tradition, while at the same time proceeding along a different path to the attain- 
ment of his own goals. 

This should be the ideal approach to renewal for the Dominican nun. There 
should always be a sincere repect for what has gone before, realizing that the cus- 
toms of former times were intended for, and beneficial to, the times which produced 
them. Indeed, these very usages helped to mold great saints of the past, men of 
the intellectual stature of St. Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great, Ignatius Loyola 
and Robert Bellarmine. It would be a great mistake to think that everything that 
is 'old' is bad and everything 'new' is good. The old may no longer be of service 
to the modern age but it is not the less good for that. If it must now be set aside, 
let it be done in a spirit of reverence and gratitude for the service it has ren- 
dered in its time. This is to think with the mind of the Church, an attitude which 
was characteristic of our holy Father. In this area of renewal, perhaps more than 
in any other, the contemplative nun can reflect the beauty of St. Dominic's soul, 
remembering his counsel to his brethren: "I have made my chief study in the Book of 
Charity; it teaches everything." 

We can say in truth that our holy father St. Dominic is the mirror of Dominican 
contemplative life and his nuns will find their true identity and place within the 
Church by looking into this mirror. If, in doing so, she finds the spiritual features 
of St. Dominic reflected in her own soul then she is truly his child, for the more 
completely an image resembles its model, the more perfect it is. 


What image should the Dominican nun show forth to the world today in order to 
proclaim her identity as a spiritual daughter of St. Dominic? First, the ideals of 
our holy Father should be manifest in every aspect of her consecrated life. Second, 
she should profess a sincere love and reverence for St. Dominic's way of life, with 
no desire to change it radically or substitute what, at first sight, might seem a 
more desirable way of life. Third, she should be faithful to St. Dominic's way of 
life, avoiding comparisons with other religious families since all religious groups 
have their appointed place within the Church, as St. Paul shows: "Now there are 
diversities of graces, but the same Spirit; and there are diversities of ministries, 
but the same Lord (I Cor. 12:4-5). For, as in one body we have many members, but all 
the members have not the same office, so we being many are one body in Christ 
(cf. Rom.l2:4-5). 

Fourth, by fidelity to St. Dominic's way of life she should foster, consolidate 
and preserve the Dominican ideal of monastic contemplative life for future gener- 
ations. Fifth, her fidelity should be shown by the consistent use of all the means 
prescribed by our holy Father for the attainment of Christian perfection; namely, 
the observances of the vows and common life in all their aspects. Sixth, her Domin- 
ican identity should be proclaimed to the Church by ordering every observance to 
the attainment of the goals of the Order: 

1. The sanctification of the individual soul; 

2. The witness to and preservation of the integrity of the faith; 

3. The sanctification of the Church through the witness and prayer of her 
entire life; 

If the Church or the Order were to address the Dominican nun today on the ques- 
tion of her identity and of the obligations it imposes, what would they have to say? 
"Like father, like daughter" is a saying so true. 
The world will judge largely of St. Dominic by YOU. 


Community Hour - Medltatlo 

What are these so-stilled ones 

Separate, yet one in Him? 

Vibrating dynamos of love 

Wholly alive to reality, 

Each in her own way touches 

The Real, the here and now of God? 

No ecstatic effusions or levitations, 

Just these so-stilled ones 

Alive to adoring love, 

How the quiet, how the stillness 

Throbs with life and love, 

flow humbly, each lost in One. 

And so the Jealous Lover guards his love 

All so ordinary to behold, 

Lost in the sameness of their robes 

In this anonymous hour of time, 

Doves alight, in flight, still come 

To rest firmly on the earth. 

Each alone, together in love with Lover, 
Wordlessly, unselfconsciously, 
Effortlessly, each one lifts 
The whole world for a blessing 
In a heart vibrating with love 
In one heart in Him. 

What greater love, in story, can you tell, 
This love of God for each, wholly, 
And each for her God? 

Sister Mary Joseph, O.F 
Los Angeles 


(An Allegory) 

Sister Mary of the Precious Blood, O.P 
Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary 
Buffalo, New York 

Though several minutes were required before her eyes could adjust 
to the dark prison cell, Fides at last perceived a stir of move- 
ment from the crouched figure in the corner furthest from her. 

"Dominus illuminatio mea" Fides began, hoping to discern if her 
companion was also a Christian. 

"Do not address me thus", came the reply, half garbled because of 
the speaker's position. Fides approached the grey form and knelt 
down . 

"Tell me how I may serve you. Are you also called to witness for 
Christ?" Fides was surprised at the swiftness of her companion's 
movement. Turning about quickly and standing erect, the young wo- 
man cried angrily; "Shall I witness to Christ, shall I burn as a 
groveling beast? The woman breathed fitfully. After several 
minutes she spoke again. "There is no time left for me and the Lord 
has forsaken me. I too had renounced the pagan divinities but the 
Lord has watered my soul with desolation in my last hours." 

The Spectre of Doubt was furtively drawing fast the ropes with 
which his victim was bound. As Fides recognized the adversary, 
the words of Bishop Ignatius took form in her mind. "My love is 
crucified", she quoted, "and there is no fire in me for what is of 
earth. There is a water living and speaking to me interiorly, say- 
ing 'come to the Father'. Tell me, what is it you fear -- apostasy, 
your own inconstancy?" 

Fides' companion answered in a trembling voice. "I can no longer 
hope for my salvation. Though my soul revolts at the thought of 
denying the Lamb, His strength has abandoned me. I see only death 
waiting to receive me." Fides asked the young woman her name. 
"Agiofora" was the reply. "Spirit Bearer' Fides repeated in turn, 
"has your soul been watered by desolation , in truth? Recall how 
the Lord Christ promised a fountain of living water to flow from 
within those who believe in Him. Now, I speak from my experience. 
Many times I have been present at the last hours of the Lamb's wit- 
nesses. Each one has been presented with the choice you are called 
upon at this moment to make. One may choose to be encompassedby 
the floodsof hopelessness, or to submerge oneself and be purified 
in the streams from His side." 

Something in Fides' voice, the conviction which she possessed, 
gentle, yet vivifying, infused strength into Agiofora's vitiated 
spirit. As the woman sat down on the cold stone pavement she con- 
tinued to listen to her friend's counsel. 


"When the Gentle Word was yet among us on earth, He invited a Samari- 
tan woman to give Him to drink. Yet see and note that He did not 
give His gift of grace ' till she was confronted with the poverty of 
her sinful life. The woman had brought these sins to the well; she 
carried her empty jar, wishing to drink from the same brackish source 
Her soul, as a vacuum, drew in the water of sensual fulfillment. 
Truth exposed her inner void, and she, leaving behind the empty ves- 
sel of self-seeking, ./an to a new awareness of God's love and mer- 
cy. Look well, Agiofora, at the emptiness of your own heart. Rec- 
ognize your impotency, your darksomeness , your need of Christ's 
grace. He will fill you and you will live by Him". 

Searching her hearer's countenance for some sign of fortitude's awa- 
kening, Fides continued. 

"There was another occasion when Christ was confronted with empty 
vessels. The Word and His disciples were attending a wedding at 
Cana in Galilee. At that time, the Lamb's mother, sinless Mary, was 
also with them. Mary perceived the exhausted supply of wine. She 
understood the critical need and herself presented it to Jesus. 
The Samaritan woman left her jar and ran to invite all mankind to 
the marriage feast of Christ's redemption. Mary will lead all to 
recognize and declare their indigence, awaiting Mercy's response. 
At her request the water was made wine, a torrent springs forth un- 
to life everlasting, and the stream of Christ's Blood becomes the 
soul's wedding garment. 

Fides took both her companion's hands in her own. "Do you still drink 
the cup of desolation, Agiofora?" 

The women arose and walked slowly to the small grated opening which 
looked out upon the amphitheater arena . "Dominus illuminatio mea et 
salus mea", Agiofora whispered, "quern timebo?" 

The sound of heavy footsteps caused both women to start. A Roman 
soldier entered the cell and led Agiofora to the contest that awaited 
her. Fides followed close behind and continued to encourage Christ's 
witness as she was bound to the pyre. Within the wall of flames 
which mounted around her, Agiofora still beheld Fides, who seemed to 
emit a light from her person all but adumbrating the executioner's 
fire. Presently, Spirit Bearer entered the bridal chamber and faith 
forever gave way to vision. 

"Inebriabuntur ab ubertate domus tuae", Fides sang as she turned a- 
way from the arena. "And Thou shalt make them drink from the torrent 
of Thy pleasure" came Agiofora 's reply as she reclined eternally on 
the breast of the Risen One. 

Because she was not admitted to the light beyond the veil, Fides 
quietly retraced her steps, and then, perhaps unobserved, entered 
the next prison cell. 




" , Lufkin 

"God, you are my God, 

I am seeking you, my 
soul is thirsting for 
you, my flesh is long- 
ing for you, a land 
parched, weary and 
waterless; I long to 
gaze on you in the 
Sanctuary, and to see 
your power and glory. 

Your love is better 
' than life itself, 

my lips will recite 
your praise; all my 
life I will bless you, 
in your name lift up 
my hands; my soul will 
feast most richly, on 
my lips a song of Joy 
and in my mouth, praise." 

(Ps. 63:1,2-5) 

St. Dominic was often found in his prayer stretching his whole body 
up towards heaven, like an arrbw being shot straight up in the air; his 
hands were stretched right up above his head, either held together or open 
as if to receive something from heaven. At such times it is thought that 
graces increased in him, and that he was caught up in rapture, and that 
he won from God in prayer the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the Order 
he had founded, so that both he and his brethren might find it their joy 
and delight to live in the spirit of the beatitudes, accounting themselves 
blessed in extreme poverty, in bitter grief and terrible persecutions, 
in great hunger and thirst after righteousness, in all the cares and wor- 
ries of meroy and love; and that their pleasure should be all in their 
devoted observance of the commandments and their accomplishment of the 
Gospel. (The Gifts of the Spirit have been traditionally linked with the 
beatitudes sinoe the time of St. Augustine, and the perfect living out of 
the beatitudes is linked with the Gospel counsels, thich are the tradi- 
tional basis of religious life.) 

At such times the holy father appeared to be taken up suddenly into 
the holy of holies and the third heaven. After this kind of prayer his 
manner was that of a true prophet, whether he were preaching, or giving 
dispensations, or reprimanding the brethren. 


The holy father never stood for long in this kind of prayer, but 
returned to himself as if he were coming from far away; at such times 
he did not seem to be at home, but rather a stranger, as could easily be 
seen from his appearance and his behavior. He was sometimes heard by the 
brethren clearly praying: "Lord, hear the voioe of my supplication while 
I pray to you and lift up my hands to your holy temple." (Ps. 27:2) 

By word and example he taught the brethren always to pray like this, 
using the verse from Ps. 133.: 1-2 "Behold, now bless the Lord, all you 
servants of the Lord. • .at night lift up your hands to the holy place," 
and from Ps. 140:1-2 "iord t I have cried to you, hear me, ..." 


The particular spirit or attitude of this seventh way of St. Dominic's 
prayer might he summed up as an INTENSE longing for the Gifts of the 
Holy Spirit. This longing is not a sporadic thing - something that comes 
and goes at-will- rather, it is the expression of a knowledge and love 
of God, and thus, also, zealous for the salvation of one's soul and of 
the souls of all mankind. 

The Heart of Jesus was ablaze with this fire, this burning zeal 
and desire for the glory of God, the Father, and the salvation of souls. 
In St. Luke's Gospel we read: 

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets 
and stone those who are sent to you! How often 
I have longed to gather your children, as a hen 
gathers her brood under her wings, and you re- 
fused." (Lk. 13:34) 

Dominic's heart, too, was filled with this fiery zeal and desire. 
How often we hear him praying: "Lord, what will become of sinners?' 1 
Where did he get this zeal, this intense desire? We can reasonably pre- 
sume that he received it from his daily communions with Christ, the Word 
of God, Who is our Way, Truth, and Life, and also from the merciful heart 
of Christ. Such communions, whether Sacramental or spiritual, filled him 
with such great zeal that at times, while at prayer, he would spontane- 
ously stretch up his arms to heaven as "an arrow that had been shot from 
a taunt bow in an intense prayer of union and supplication: 

"Hear, Lord, the voice of my supplication which I 
pray to Thee, when I lift up my hands to Thy holy 
Temple." . 

"St. Catherine of Siena describes this desire in various ways: as 
an unquenchable fire, as the torture of insatiable hunger, or as a thirst 
that cannot be done without, or the ardor of the lover for the object 
of his love. The human heart, poor in its possessions, yet infinite in 
its capacity, understands immediately the nature of desire. To Raymond 
of Capua she wrote: 

"It is an undeniable fact that without this inner 
fire you will do nothing either great or small." 

(Letter 344) 

Thus, our prayers, coming from our hearts and rising to God on be- 
half of our neighbor, will be, in turn, a joy because of his goodness, 
and a sorrow because of his sin and wretchedness; and our prayers, 
drawn from Christ's heart, will serve to refresh the members of His 
Mystical Body." .._ 

- from St. Catherine of Siena , by Perrin, pp. 51-52 

"The true, efficacy of our works depends upon our interior life, and the 
true worth of a bouI is the worth of its interior life; for a soul's worth 
is in direct proportion to the intimacy and intensity of its relations 
with God... It is the one thing necessary.. .and no matter how intense the 
interior life may be, it needs more and aspires -to more." - from Secrets 
Of the Interior iife, by Luis M. Martinez, D.D. 



"In St. Margaret then we have examples of two kinds of prayer: that 
of the will carried on in spite of weariness and heaviness of bodily 
powers, and the prayer of infused contemplation, when the Master Himself 
takes the soul and raises it up. 'I live, now not I, but Christ lives 
in me.' 

Once, during Advent when »he was spending the night in prayer, she 
was suddenly wrapt in eeetasy, and a flame of fire appeared over her head. 
The nun who was with her, again Sister Helen the younger, called her several 
times, and since she did not answer, the young nun, who does not appear 
to have got accustomed to the Saint's ecstasies, or to have lost her fear 
of them, ran to the Choir where she found several more of the community 
praying. They came at once, and all saw the marvel which so ravished 
them with its beauty that they remained a long time watching. Several 
times they tried to attract Sister Margaret's attention, but being in 
ecstasy she could neither see nor hear them. 

At last she returned to herself slowly and half dazed as though she had 
been roused from a deep sleep. The nuns, excited and vociferous, all be- 
gan to tell her that there was a flame resting on her head. St. Margaret, 
who by this time was completely herself again, quietly lifted her hand 
to her head, and the flame disappeared. She begged those present to say 
nothing about the occurrence; but she could not hide the delicious per- 
fume which filled the air, and hung about the place for a long time 



"Persevering in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, they long for 
the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that they may see the glory of the Lord 
revealed in His Face, and may be transformed in the same image from 
splendor to splendor by the Spirit of the Lord." (p. 6, S-IV) 

"...searching the Scriptures with an eager heart, INSTANT IN PRAYER..." 
(p. 6, S-V) 

"•••during his whole life and was consumed with love and steal..." 
(p. 9, S-IV, 28) 

"Being imitators of Blessed Dominic as he was of Christ, they should 
continue his 'spirit of prayer and fervor'..." (p. 12, #60 S-III) 

"In silence and peace they earnestly seek the Face of the Lord, and 
they never cease making petitions to the God of Balvation for all men." 
(p. 13, #80, S-SIV) 

"Tireless in prayer with hearts centered upon the Lord, the nuns in 
addition to liturgical prayer should persever fervently and earnestly in 
private prayer." (P. 14, #93) 



Holy Spirit, living Flame of Love, hover 
over us as You hovered over Jesus at His 
baptism, over Mary at the Annunciation, 
and over St. Dominic during his times 
of prayer. May our prayer be intense in 
the fire of Your love, a flame leaping 
up to the Heart of our Heavenly Father, 
bringing down blessings upon us. We ask 
all this in the burning Heart of Jesus. 



"I am listening. 
What is Yahweh saying? 
What God is saying 
means peace for his 
people, for his friends, 
if only they renounce 
their folly;... 

Love and Loyalty now meet, 
Righteousness and Peace 
now embrace; Loyalty reaches 
up from earth and Righteous- 
ness leans down from heaven." 
(Ps. 85:8-11) 

St. Dominic had another beautiful way of praying, full of devotion 
and grace, which he used after the liturgical hours and the grace which 
is always said after meals. Sober and alert in his mind, and anointed 
with* a spirit of devotion which he had drawn from the Divine Words which 
had been sung in choir, or in the refectory, he would quickly go and sit 
down in some place by himself, or in a a room somewhere, to read or to 
pray, recollecting himself and fixing himself in the presence of God. 
He would sit there quietly and open some books, (Gospel of St. Matthew, 
the Epistles of St. Paul, or the Crucifix), always arming himself first 
with the Sign of the Cross; then he would read, letting the sweetness 
of what he read touch his mind, as if he heard the Lord actually speaking 
to him, as it says in the Paalms, "I will hear what the Lord God is say- 
ing in me..." (Ps. 84) It was as if he were discussing something with 
a friend: at times he would seem to be racing on impatiently in his mind 
and in his words; at other times, he would listen quietly and discuss 
and argue, and then laugh and weep all at once, and fix his gasse, and bow 
his head, speaking quietly again and beating his breast. 

Had anyone cared to hide and spy on him, he would have seen our holy 
father Dominic just like Moses going into the inner desert and coming to 
the mountain of God, Horeb , and seeing the burning bush, and the Lord 
speaking, calling him to humble himself. (Ex. 3: Iff) The mountain of 
the Lord means this prophetic manner of passing quickly from reading to 
prayer from prayer to meditation, from meditation to contemplation. (These 
are the classic four elements in the medieval account of our *scent to 
God in prayer; elsewhere, however, prayer is said to arise out of medi- 
tation rather than the other way about.) 

When he was reading like this by himself, he would do reverence to 
the book, bowing over it and kissing it, especially if it was a book of 
the Gospels or if he were reading the words Christ pronounced with His 
own lips and sometimes he would turn aside his face, hiding it in his 
oappa, or he would bury his face in his hands and cover it a while with 
his scapular, and then weep in great- distress and yearning. Then, as 


if giving thanks to some very special person, for favors he has bestowed, 
he would rise with reverence and bow his head. Then completely refreshed 
and at peace with himself, he would continue to read his book. 


Listening to the Word of God and being formed by it is not a pas- 
sive exercise. It is not reading merely for information. Listening 
to the Word of God has much more to do with FORMATION IN FAITH. Coming 
to the Scriptures in the stillness of prayer I ask: 'What does this 
passage or story mean for me and for my community? * The Scriptures 
have a meaning of their own. This meaning- enters my life, and the uni- 
queness of my life this meaning becomes a Living Word within me, form- 
ing my faith. Praying with Scripture involves a dialog. I listen, 
but I also respond. I ask myself: 'How shall I respond to the mean- 
ing of this passage?' When a word is spoken to me, a response is called 
for. When God speaks to me, He invites me to respond. I may respond 
in words, in new attitudes, or in action. Our faith increases and our 
prayer grows as we keep in touch with the Word of God. The special 
happiness of which Jesus speaks is ours, if we. ..hear the word of God 
and keep it! (Lk. 11:28) 



St. Thomas entered the Dominican Order to devote his life to the 
study of truth. Throughout life he perfected the extraordinary gifts 
of mind and heart God had bestowed on him. Prayer and study were his 
two chosen occupations. He received his Divine Master for the last time 
with the words: "For Thee have I lived; for Thee have I studied. I 
submit all that I have written to Thy holy Church in whose obedience 
I now pass from this earth." 

The secret of his peace is found in his devotion to the Holy 
Eucharist. In long hours before the tabernacle and at the foot of the 
crucifix he learned to expend his talents and exhaust his strength in 
the service of Christ and the Church. He has been proclaimed Doctor of 
the Church and patron of Catholic schools. 

The Cross of the Saviour was his first book, the great object of 
his study and meditations, the rule of his whole life. At the foot of the 
Cross he so humbled his spirit to > merit an understanding of the mysteries 
of faith. He purified his^heart to render himself capable of receiving 
it. There he learned the secret of penetrating into truth by way of 
charity and of basing all his knowledge on that of Jesus Christ. 

His soul, always attentive to the voice of God, listened in silence 
to what the Eternal Word wished to make known to him. He learned at the 
foot of the Cross. The wounds of Jesus Christ were the "masters" whom he 
consulted in his doubts and to *feom he listened in his difficulties... 
From this source he drew the principles of his science, the abundance 
and purity of his doctrine. 



"Commissioned entirely for the ministry of the Word of God, the 
brethren of the Order fulfill their vocation primarily through preach- 
ing. The sisters, although commissioned primarily for prayer to God, 
are not deprived of a share in the ministry of the Word ( 1 ) by HEAR- 
ING the Word of God, by its LITURGICAL CELEBRATION, and by LIVING it, 
they proclaim the Word of God by the example of their lives." (#100) 

(1) Yenite Seorsum, V.) 

"Christ is the Word of God} we hear him in the Sacred Scriptures; 
everything in them proclaims Christ. We hear him in the voice of the 
Church, speaking to us in the sacraments of faith, in the teaching of 
our pastors and the witness of the saints. We hear him when the world 
and our brothers cry out for our love. For the Spirit of Christ is one, 
finely attuning his inspirations to our inward senses." (#101) 

"Spiritual reading is directed to a real dialogue with God for, 
'we speak with God when we pray and we listen to Him when we read the 
divine revelation'. (St. Ambrose)." (#102) 

"They should nourish their faith on the mystical teaching of the 
fathers and other authors, particularly those of the Order. In study 
they have St. Thomas as the greatest master whose teachings the Church 
singularly commends and the Order retains as a patrimony." (#102, S-IIl) 



Jesus, Divine Word of the Father, 
open to us Your holy word in the 
Scriptures. May we savor therein 
the divine words in prayer as did 
our father, St. Dominic, and share 
his insights, so that imitating the 
way he prayed and lived the Scrip- 
tures, we may be his true daughters. 


"I lift my eyes to the 
mountains: where is help 
to come from? Help comes 
to me from Yahweh, who 
made heaven and earth. 

No letting our footsteps 
slip! This guard of yours, 
he does not doze! The 
guardian of Israel does 
not doze or sleep* 

Yahweh guards you, shades you. 
With Yahweh at your right 
hand, sun cannot strike you 
down hy day, nor moon at night. 

Yahweh guards you from harm, 
he guards your lives, 
he guards you leaving, coming 
back now and for always." 

(Ps. 121) 

Our father, St. Dominic, observed this mode of prayer while travel- 
ing from one country to another, especially when he passed through some 
deserted region. He then delighted in giving himself completely to medi- 
tation, disposing for contemplation, and he would say to his companion 
on the journey: "It is written in Hosea, * I will lead her (my spouse) 
into the wilderness and I will speak to her heart' (Hos. 2:14)." Part- 
ing from his companion, he would go an ahead or, more frequently, follow 
at some distance. Thus withdrawn, he would walk and pray; in his medi- 
tation he was enf lamed and the fire of charity was enkindled. While he 
prayed it appeared as if he were brushing dust or bothersome flies from 
his face when he repeatedly fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross. (1) 

The brethren thought that it was while praying in this way that he 
obtained, his extensive penetration of Sacred Scripture and profound un- 
derstanding of the divine words, the power to preach so fervently and 
courageously, and that intimate acquaintance with the Holy Spirit by 
which he came to know the hidden things of God. 

(1) In footnote #3, Simon Tugwell discusses this sentence. "This 
very curious detail seems to refer to some kind of demonic molestation..." 
I would suggest an interpretation of "brushing" away not only temptations, 
but also perhaps distractions, or as a means of placing himself in the I 
presence of God. 

St. Albert the Great suggests this very remedy in a work attributed 
to him, "On Cleaving to God" (De Adhaerendo Deo), p. 20: 

"The best remedy is to take no more notice of all such temptations 
than if they were a swarm of flies buzzing about in front of your 
eyes against your will...^y good will every temptation may be over- 
come, as flies, are brushed away by a movement of the hand..." 


The spirit which St. Dominic seems to express in this form of prayer 
might be called RECOLLECTION, or in more contemporary terms: UNCEASING 

The word "recollection" comes from the Latin, "recolligere", which 
means exactly what the English does, to re-collect, gather together 
again. In the spiritual sense it refers to the exercise of gathering 
one* 8 faculties and focusing them on one particular point, God. 

The Scriptures give us some indication of the importance of quiet- 
ing oneself and being attentive to the Lord. The ninth way of prayer it- 
self cites the prophet Rosea. The Psalms, too, continually present a soul 
seeking God's will and presence, in the various circumstances of life. 
"Meditating all day on your Law, how I have come to love it!" (Ps. 119:97; 
of., Ps. 16:8; 25:15; 63:6; 77:4; etc.) 

In the New Testament, St. Paul makes several references to having 
a prayerful and recollected spirit. "Pray constantly, and for all things 
gives thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ 
Jesus" (iThes. 5:17b-l8). "Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, what- 
ever you do at all, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). 
"Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking 
this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the 
Body, is eating and drinking his own condemnation" (1 Cor. 11:28-29)* And 
of course, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is our model par excellence be- 
cause she "treasured . and stored up all these things and pondered them 
in her heart" (Lk. 2: 18, 51). 

The precursors of religious and monastic life, the Desert fathers, 
sought to live in a spirit of continual recollection. Their entire lives 
were expressed by work and prayer. Prayer disposed them to do their 
work as well as possible. While their manual labor prepared_them for 
prayer. The author of the Imitation of Christ wrote of this. "By day they 
labored, and ouch of the night they spent in prayer; though while they 
did not interrupt their mental prayer for one moment.. .Every hour seemed 
short for the service of God" (Bk. L. o. 18). The early Christians re- 
ferred to a spirit of recollection as continual prayer and placed great 
importance upon it. 

(The Christian's) life is a holy festival. His sacrifices 
are prayers and praises, and reading in the Scriptures be- 
fore meals and psalms and hymns during meals and before 
bed, and prayers also again during the night. By these he 
unites himself to the Divine choir, from continual recollec- 
tion, engaged in contemplation which has everlasting re- 
membrance. Clement of Alexandria 

The Eastern Church, perhaps because of its more contemplative 
orientation, has preserved the concept of this spirit within its tradi- 
tion of he sy chasm , (Greek: hesyohia-tranquillity or quiet). It is a 
"rigorous asceticism of constant control of one's thoughts by vigilant 
attention to the presence of the indwelling God. • .cultivation of an abid- 


ing sense of sorrow for sin centered on the Jesus Paryer" (George Maloney, 
Inward Stillness , p. 23)* The Christian seeks to focus all his faculties 
and attention within his heart* He strives for purity of heart for it is 
within the heart that one encounters God. The idea of the "silence of 
the heart" relates to the more Western concept of interior and mental si- 
lence as well as physical. This inner silence creates a state of humility 
and poverty. 

St. Teresa of Avila is often consulted in regard to recollection. 
She uses the term with two different meanings. First, there is an active 
recollection by which the person strives to exolude voluntary distrac- 
tions (internal and external) and concentrate upon the presence of God 
within. This activity disposes one for higher prayer. ( Way of Perfection , 
c. 28-30). Secondly, she speaks of the prayer of recollection as a type 
of mystical prayer bestowed by God (cf. Interior Castle , Mansion IV, c. 31 ) 
Others speak of this as the "Prayer of Simplicity", or of the "Presence 
of God". For our purposes in regard to St. Dominic's ninth way of prayer, 
we restrict ourselves to her first meaning. 

How does a person acquire a spirit of recollection? St. Teresa sug- 
gests trying to remember and be aware of Jesus our Friend within our soul. 
Doing this enables one to listen, speak, and act in a way worthy of some- 
one in the Presence of God. "We must cast aside everything. •• in order to 
approach God inwardly and we must retire within ourselves even during our 
ordinary occupations"! ( Way , o. 29) 

Recollection involves t two movements: "a turning away from external 
phenomena and the pacification within our souls of the tumult produced by 
the imagination and the emot ions. •• But it is not easy to establish this 
silence and to do so instantly. It may be a physical impossibility to 
go into one's inner room and shut the door upon oneself, but even so this 
is not our most troublesome task." We turn away from external stimuli in 
order to lessen the continual distractions that come to us through the 
senses. The interior "commotion" is much more difficult to calm (e.g., 
memory, imagination, worry, curiosity, etc.). Interior and exterior 
silence is not for its own sake, but to heighten our awareness of God's 
presence within and enable one to speak and listen to Him with ease. 
Various means may be employed in order to attain a certain spirit of 
recollection; besides the practices just mentioned there are the Jesus 
Prayer, other ejaculations, the practice of the presence of God, the 
crucifix, and other images and holy pictures, etc. 

If we live in a continual loving surrender to our Father and seek 
His glory in all we do, then nothing is boring or useless. "Everything 
works together for the good of those who love God" (Rm. 8:28). Even suf- 
fering and seemingly negative things become means of prayerful union. 

When the practice of prayer has become habitual, even routine, dis- 
tractions present themselves as a common obstacle to prayer and a spirit 
of recollection. I mention the subject of distraction briefly because 
the description of St. Dominic repeatedly making the Sign of the Cross 
evokes the image of a possible way of trying to remove distractions as 
he meditated on the road. 

The problem with distractions is not that God considers our prayer 
ruined, but that we begin to think of ourselves instead of loving Him. 
Distractions have the positive aspect of helping us to grow in humility. 


We should deal gently, then, with them and not become unduly upset by them. 
Here again, various objects such as nature, holy pictures, etc., can 
be helpful to make the mind attentive. Depending upon their nature, and 
the nature of one'B prayer, they may perhaps be made the subject of one's 
conversation. We should use distractions as an opportunity to calmly 
turn to the Lord again in love, humility, praise, and thanksgiving. 

We cannot always control the presence of distractions. In prayer 
our will should be centered on God, but often the intellect and imagina- 
tion run wild. The intellect and imagination have the task of directing 
our wills toward God. Onoe their task has been accomplished they have 
nothing to do. Thus, distractions are the common lot of a life of prayer. 

St. Teresa tells us that if one practices recollection the effects 
and benefits should begin to be evident after only a short time, "after 
several days" ( Way , c. 28). She points. out first of all that a recollect- 
ed person enters into formal prayer with greater ease. Souls who are 
recollected "are more secure from many occasions of sin, and the fire 
of Divine Love is the more readily enkindled in them; for they are so 
near that fire that, however little the blaze has been fanned with the 
understanding, any small spark that flies out at them will cause them 
to burst into flame" ( Way , c. 28). 

Thus, recollection aids one in overcoming temptation, and growth in 
virtue. Once recollection has developed from a* series of temporary acts 
to a permeating spirit or state of soul, it endures while the person is 
performing various tasks or engaged in edifying conversation. Recollect- 
ion sanctifies manual labor. It involves a certain interior struggle, 
thus it leads one to a regaining of one's true self , a self-possession 
and integration of personality. 

Recollection is important for it is a preamble to contemplation. 
"Whereas our earthly life could not be purely contemplative, it should 
always remain recollected." Recollection precedes and prepares for con- 
templation, (D. von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ , c. 6). 

The Christian who is recollected never dies 
unexpectedly, even though he may die in a 
sudden disaster, from a rapid disease, or in the 
height of youth. The recollection of a holy life 
lived in perfect harmony with the vision of God 
and of eternity keeps him always prepared for 
the final awakening. 

" > 

-—Henrique Gollard Trinidade, 

Recollection: the Soul of Action, p. 6. 


A Dominican saint who seems to embody a spirit of recollection is 
St. Thomas Aquinas. An "atmosphere of recollection is nearly synonymous 
with the spirit of order, work, study, and prayer." ( Recollection: Soul 
of Action , p. 93). Many of the testimonies during the process of cmnoni- 



zation speak of his deep spirit of prayer. Though they did not always 
use the tern "recollection" the meaning seems to be the same. The fol- 
lowing is an account by William of Tocco, O.P., who was a close friend 
of St. Thomas: 

Thomas did not acquire his knowledge by natural in- 
genuity, but rather through the revelation and in- 
fusion of the Holy Spirit, for he never began to 
write without previous prayer and tears. Whenever 
a doubt arose, he had recourse to prayer. After 
shedding many tears, he would return to his work 
now enlightened and instructed. (Grabmann, The Interior 
Life of St. Thomas Aquinas , p. 12) 

The Bull of Canonization by John XXII, on July 18th 1323 t states: 

He accomplished all this as a skillful man, withdrawn 
from all earthly ambition and intent upon the attainment 
of heavenly goods. In applying himself to study, he 
put aside the temporal and strove after God so as to 
attain the Eternal. He began with the divine in 
order to be fortified in his studies, when, each day be- 
fore ascending the lecturing chair, he celebrated Mass 
and attended another. • .He so shone in the splendor 
of chastity, carefully guarded with himility, and 
nourished by recollection, that many believed he re- 
mained incorrupt in the virginity of the flesh... 
This servant of God was wholly intent upon divine 
works, sedulously applying himself to study in which 
he was devout, to Holy Scripture which he understood 
so .well. (Grabmann, Interior Life . . . , pp. 15-15) • 

Thomas had such a profound habit of prayer and recollection that 
he would shun community recreation. He would, go for walks and occasion- 
ally admit the presence of others on the condition that the conversa- 
tion would be holy and edifying. Otherwise, he would slip off to his 
cell or the chapel. 

As mentioned above, recollection and contemplation are closely 
related. So, too, theological study can be an immediate preparation 
for prayer and contemplation. In Thomas' day theological thought and 
prayer were much more closely united than today. The discipline in- 
volved in theology and the fact that its object is God readily prepares 
one for prayer. In fact, this was ihe original concept of the Order. 
Study, instead of manual labor, was to prepare and lead the friar to the 
contemplation of divine truths. Thomas continually emphasized the im- 
portance of purity and sanctity in order for one to grow in theological I 

L. H. Petitot in his exquisite book, The Life and Spirit of Thomas , 
Aquinas , points out very well how the asceticism of study i« important 
because there are many aspects in common with a spirit of recollection. 
For this reason lengthy quotations from his book follow: 

His asceticism was very much like that of the Desert 
Fathers, while being at the same time distinctly 
intellectual. • .St. Thomas was vigilant in restrain- 

- _. - -L. 


ing his senses and emotions, mortifying his conver- 
sations, visits, and superfluous relationships* 
Aware of his special vocation, which was to become 
an outstanding theologian, he mortified all his 
literary, artistic, and administrative aptitudes. •• 
He was not a man of half measures. • .His outstanding 
example is a sign and worthy lesson for us... so often 
disquieted and unable to devout ourselves to the 
study of a single subject, (p. 14) 

He was passive in the best sense of the term. 
Passivity of spirit in the Thomistic sense of the 
term presupposes a certain activity, a constant 
rumination , an incessant labor of assimilation 
and integration. The prodigous work of assimila- 
tion and what might be called an excess of interior 
reflection necessitated a corresponding excess of 
recollection, solitude, and silence, (p. 42) 

We are convinced that St. Thomas was interiorly 
one of the most mortified of ascetics. •• it was more 
profound and interior. It controlled not only 
his heart, but also his head. His asceticism was 
more intellectual, (pp. 108, 111) 

Asceticism is generally physical, but certain organs, like the 
eyes and brain are considered more intellectual because they have to 
do with reasoning. The Desert Fathers did not go in for violent phys- 
ical asceticism. Besides fasting, they practiced vigils, physical 
immobility | and silence. Those involved in the active apostolate, 
such as itinerant preachers, cannot practice prolonged fasts, silence, 
etc. Thus, they mortified themselves by hair shirts and flagellations. 
The asceticism of Thomas resembles that of the Desert Fathers. In fact, 
his favorite reading was the Conferences of Cassian on the Fathers of 
the Desert . This asceticism is not bloody, as in the Lives of the 
Brethren , but involves such things as flight from the world, silence, 
reserve, fasts, and continual contemplation. 

Thomas' seclusion and quiet were not merely a 
spontaneous quality of his temperament, but a 
conscious, methodical, and willed effort, an 
indispensable means for making rapid and useful 
progress. (Petitot, p. 120) 

St. Thomas Aquinas was great not because he was so intelligent, but 
because his intelligence was rooted in and imbued with a profound spirit 
of prayer and recollection. He was totally dedicated by means of prayer 
and study to the undivided and continual service of his mind and heart 
to God. 

Thomas is celebrated as a contemplative, as a thinker 
living totally in the .world of the supersensory, the 
supernatural, and the divine. Furthermore, his 
gloving love of Qod, which finds its chief expression 
in his life of prayer and in the dedication of his 
whole life, exterior, and interior, to Qod, is 


brought into prominence. Lastly, all these accounts 
extol his harmonious, well-balanced character, undis- 
turbed and untroubled by any inordinate passion, 
since his virginal purity, his humility, silence, 
and modesty, his meekness, benevolence, and amiabil- 
ity, continually appear as the basic tendencies of 
his whole being, I would like to express these 
three fundamental traits in the words: wisdom, 
charity, peace," 

— Grabmann, p, 17-18. 



"By withdrawal from the world in fact and spirit the nuns, like 
prudent virgins awaiting their Lord, are freed from worldy concerns 
so that they may have leisure to devote themselves to the kingdom of God. 
This hidden life opens their minds to the breadth, the height and depths 
of God's love who sent his Son so that the whole world would b e saved,,," (#41) 

"Blessed Dominic "rarely spoke except with God, in prayer, or about 
God, and he warned the brethren about this matter," Pondering these 
things in their hearts, the nuns should make of their own home and 
especially of their own hearts a place of silence." (#52, S-l) 

"The study of sacred truth according to one's abilities fosters 
human maturity and is a fruitful preparation for spiritual reading. 
Study, indeed an . authentic element among the observances of the Order, 
fosters contemplation and contributes to the fulfillment of the evangel- 
ical counsels with a more enlightened fidelity," (#103, S-l) 

(See also: #1, S-II; #-IV f S, V; #40, S-II; #41; #60, S-II; #93; 
#99; #109.) 



holy Father, St. Dominic, you were so consecrated 
to God - in heart, mind, and body - that no matter 
where you were or what you were doing, you were in 
communion with the Lord. Fill us with your deep 
spirit of prayer that we may always be axare of 
God's loving presence within our hearts as we go 
about our daily occupations. Is your daughters may 
we always contemplate, celebrate, and communicate 
the Word of God, We ask this in the name of Jesus, 



-165- * 


The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic , by an anonymous author, 
edited and translated "by Simon Tugwell, O.P. , Dominican Publications, 
Dublin, 1978. 

The New Catholic Encyclopedia , Mc Graw-Hill Book Co., 1967. 

The Theology of Christian Perfection , by Royo and Aumann, O.P., 
The Priory Press, Dubuque, IA, 1962. 

The Holy Bible , Duay Version, 1941. 

Christ, the Ideal of the Monk , by Dom Marmion, O.S.B. , Herder Book Co., 
St. Louis, MO, 1926. 

Margaret, Princess of Hungary , by Sister Mary Catherine, (Stone, England), 
Arthurs Press LTD, Woodohester, Troud, Glos, Great Britain, 1945* 

Dominican Spirituality , by William A. Hinnebusch, O.P. , The Thomist 
Press, 1965. 

The Prayer of Faith , by Quentin Hakenewerth, S.M. , Maryhurst Press, 
St. Louis, Mo. T969. 

The Prayer of the Presence of God , by Dom A. Guillerand, Cart., 
Demons ion Books, 1966. 

The Exemplar , Life and Writings of Blessed Henry Suso, O.P. , translated 
by Sr. M. Ann Edward, O.P. , The Priory Press, Dubuque, IA, 1962. 

Saint Catharine De Ricci , (Saints of the Rosary eeriee), by an anonymous 
Irish Dominican, St. Saviour Priory, Dublin, 1900, 

Transformation in Christ, by Dom Von Hilde brand, Image Books, (Helicon 
Press), 1948. T 

Recollection of the Soul , by Henrique Golland Trindade, O.P.M. , 
translated by Conall 0*Leary, O.P.M. , St. Anthony Guild Press, 1957- 

Inward StillnesB , by George A. Maloney, S.J. Dimension Books Inc. 
Denville, N.J., 1975- 


The Way of Perfection , by St. Teresa of Avila, translated by Allison 
Peers, Image Books, Garden City, N.Y. , 1946. 

The Interior Castle , by St. Teresa of Avila, translated by Allison 
Peers, Image Books, 1944- 

The Life and Spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas , by L.H. Petitot, O.P. , trans- 
lated by Cyprian Burke, O.P. , The Priory Press, Chicago, IL 1966. 

The Interior Life of St. Thomas Aquinas , by Dr. Martin Grabmann, trans- 
lated by Nicholas Ashenbrener, O.P., The Bruce Publishing Co. 1951 • 

St. Martin de Porres, O.P. , by Guiliana Cavallini, O.P., Herder Book 
Co. 1963. 

Catherine of Siena , by J.M. Perrin, O.P. , translated by Paul Barrett, 
O.F.M. , cap., Newman Press, 19^5« 

Jerusalem Bible , by Dart on, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company, 
Inc., 1966. 



Come i 

let us sit 

at the Beautiful Gate, 

Peter and John will come 

if we wait, 

Peter and John 

in Jesus ' name 

will lift us high, 

for we are lame. 

Together we'll laugh 
and gracefully leap: 
Remember the day 
we could only weep? 

Now this is our blessing: 

that we are lame, 

covered with sores 

and filled with shame: 

Merc iful-Love 

let us meditate; 

you and I 

at the Beautiful Gate, 

Sr, Elaine 
North Guilford 



Translated by Mother Mary of the Trinity, O.F 
Menlo Park 

"P*jexich the utotd, p<teA4, -it hor&e. ok aUL 

occaAsLoti*,, convenient o-t inconvenient.: a>±e, 

GArxir.-^nt, <bcp'too<£ f and a/op eat, with ati the, 

patience, that the. u)0<tk o<£ teaching. ^tec-^Lte^,. " 

1 (II /im,4:2) 

The history of the Church is the history of the word of God, of that word 
which, having created the light and the universe, crowned creation by forming 
man and placing him for hi3 proving in the paradise of ieligrts; that word which 
summons the dead from their tombs, commands the winds and the tempests. Finally, 
since the world with its wisdom did not recognize God in the wisdom of God, it 
pleased Him to save those who believe by the folly of preaching the word (i Cor, 
l:2l). This is the word which resounds from eternity to eternity down through the* blessed are those who listen, for it is a word of eternal life! It is 
a word which the incarnate ^ord of God passed on from his lips to those of his 
apostles as a word of reconciliation between heaven and earth, when he said to 
them: "Go..., and proclaim the Good Hews to the whole creation (Kk, 16: 15). This 
word resounded through the world; it reechoed here in Rome itself, despite the 
chains of Peter and Paul. The word of God is not fettered by the shackles of this 
world' 3 tyrants. 

I hear Paul, the great preacher of faith and truth, sent to the world as 
Doctor of the Sentiles, transmitting the word received from Christ to Timothy, 
his beloved disciple, and urging him: Preach the word — "Praeiica verbum." 

But the vision of the august preacher to the Gentiles evokes in our miners 
eye another prospect of preachers of the word of God, a heroic, glorious troop 
at whose head we are gratified to see Dominic of Guzman. It is in his honor that 
the solemn festivities of these days find their justification," destined as they 
are to sing the glory which has encircled his altar for seven centuries. 

In- the light of St. Paul we reflect upon the great Patriarch of the 

Preachers; imitating Paul, he becomes the imitator of Christ; docile to Christ 

and to Paul, who cries out to us: "Be ye imitators of me even as I am of Christ" 
(I Cor, 4: 16; 11:1). 

Thus it is that God shows himself admirable in his saints, one of whom, 
receiving the light from Christ, transmits it to another; and vying with one 
another in the radiance they shed, they all grow into the one divine light. 

Complete .translation of the discourse delivered by Sugenio Cardinal Pacelli 
[later Pope Pius XIl] in the church of the Minerva at Rome, on Sunday, June 2, 
1935, for the closing celebration of the seventh centenary of the canonization 
of St. Dominic. (.Translator' s note: Englished from the French version published 

by Ernest Plammarion in TRIPTYQUE, 1936, pp. 27-66.] 


Similarly does the sun shine upon the planets whose rays smiling upon the 
splendor of the stars beautify our tranquil nights. 

As in the case of Paul, Dominic too becomes Christ's preacher, his legate 
and his ambassador: Treach the word!" Like Paul, Dominic too feels the constant 
urging of zeal and solicitude for all the faithful of the Church. He gathers 
about him a group of companions, apostles destined to scatter across the world, 
in consolation and in suffering, in days of joy and of sadness: "press it hone 
on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient." After the manner of Paul, Dominic 
also masters all knowledge and every virtue, refuting false doctrine, stimulating 
and exhorting people to the good, reproving and correcting bad morals, and 
always with steadfast patience and supernatural wisdom: "use argument, reproof 
and appeal, with all the patience that the work of teaching requires." 

On this day of joy and glory for the illustrious Order of 3t. Dominic, 
which carries the formidable burden of a prodigious work and, for seven centu- 
ries, has accumulated honors and commendations for it3 doctrine and virtue, 
Dominic stands out as a giant: preacher, founder and master. Above the ranks 
of his friars, his valiant disciples, radiates the splendor of his paternal 
glory: his apostolic zeal, his genius for pioneering, his overriding discretion. 
Such is the heroic magnitude which I hope to conjure up, following him through 
the turbulent, arduous trials of his epoch, as he trains himself and becomes 
a wise and holy counselor, holding aloft a new banner of faith and knowledge 
before the campaigners in his ranks. He teaches them by his example as well as 
his rale to make study and doctrine a weapon of defense for all divine and 
human verities. 

In thi3 Some which witnessed the footsteps of St. Dominic and has preserved 
the living memory of his prodigies and his single-mindedness, a^ong the queen 
of highways and on the Aventine hill; in this august sanctuary dedicated to the 
throne of a Wisdom which proceeds, not from the imaginary thunderbolts of 
Olympus, but from the glory of the Holy Ones where it was -engendered from all 
eternity: in this hallowed place it is truly fitting that the praise of Dominic 
should resound most ardently. And if such sublime thoughts exceed the inadequacy 
of my words, then let the virtues and deeds of the great Patriarch of the 
Preachers speak for themselves! They will preach with the power of example 
which surpasses every word, for they are a word alive and active, sifting the 
purposes and thoughts of the heart (Heb., 4:12), a word that we need, exiled 
pilgrims as we are, wandering along the uncertain, deceptive paths of life: 
"Preach the word, press it home on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient: 
use argument, reproof, and appeal, with all the patience that the work of 
teaching requires." 

The dignity of preaching is implanted in human nature by the mystery of 
faith, ^etween humanity and the mystery of faith there opens out the abyss of 
divinity; who will traverse it except one who is sustained by a divine mandate: 
"How could anyone spread the news without a commission to do so" (Rom. , 1 0: 1 5)? 
Lift your gaze together with me toward this altar of faith. Within that tater- 
nacle is present, hidden in our midst, He who was prophesied, awaited, who 
came, the most exalted preacher of our race: the Word of God made man, sent 
by the Father to announce and to demonstrate in Himself for straying humanity 
the bridge which spans the ch^sa and leads to the way of truth and life , en- 
compassed by the mystery. of faith. Christ is our sole Master, the only one who 
announces the eternal message. He is the Word who preaches Himself, because 
He is essential truth and wisdom; in preaching Himself, H e preaches the Father 
who sent Him: "Preach the word." Is not Christ the Master of preachers? 


Did not the Apostles learn in Hiis divine school the doctrine and the art 
of declaring to the world the kingdom of Sod? Were they &ot chosen, gathered 
together by Him into a single flock, as if for a novitiate, and under his vigil- 
ance, scattered among the people of Israel to begin that preaching which they 
would one day carry into the midst of all the nations of the world? 

Yes, indeed! Proclaim, Doctor of the Gentiles, that you are an imitator 
of Christ, not only by your life but also by your word. Having put on Christ, ■ 
with the word of Christ on your lip3, journeying unwearyingly amid the dangers 
of land, sea, and men, clarion of the new Sion, awakening the dead to the life 
of grace: you will be the model for Dominic de Guzman. By following you, he 
will find the way of imitating Christ most conformed to his ardent spirit. He, 
too, will be a preacher of Christ for God has also bestowed on him an intense 
and generous nature, so as to make of him an invincible champion of the word. 

As a matter of fact, if grace does not destroy but rather vitalizes and 
reinforces nature by orienting it toward the sublime destiny intended for it 
by heaven; if providence ordains and directs all that happens, all that unfolds 
in the universe and in the small world which constitutes man; if among the 
blossoms on a single branch one is more beautiful and fragrant than another, 
is there any wonder that Dominic, destined by God for such great things, should, 
among the sons of Felix de Guzman and Jane of Aza, have been endowed with a 
nature of a more exceptional stamp, so that the prodigious achievements to which 
he was summoned by God were to be expected? This flower of Caleruega was born and 
grew up among the upland breezes of Old Castille, beside the murmuring waters of 
the clear xiiver Duero. The heroic valor of Christian defenders against Moorish 
invasion was his patrimony, together with an intensity of spirit which, in 
later centuries, would be found in Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of tfesus. 
I shall not expatiate on his nobility of blood or the splendors of a feudal 
castle, but rather recall the signal piety and virtue which surrounded Dominic's 
cradle and the concern of his very devout mother. In this third child of her 
womb, for whom she had longed and besought the Lord, she instilled and cultivated 
tne seeilings sown by baptism in the soul of her little one, by way of cotherly 
tenderness and holy words. aad she not seen him in her dreams as a burning torch 
setting the world on fire or as a star that would light up the night s<y? I 
shall not elaborate on the religious spirit of his two elder brothers, Anthony 
whom the church of 3t. James would honor among its canons, friend of the poor 
and the sick, and Mannes who took the habit of the Preachers and, after sharing 
the labors of Dominic on earth, would be venerated with him on the altars in 
company with their holy mother. 

Let me concentrate upon the little boy, object of great designs on the part 
of heaven, who with the years would increase not only in physical vigor and 
spiritual strength but also in gentleness, grace, and that spirit of wisdom and 
prudence replete with simplicity such as God confers on little ones. By this means 
He enables them to overcome the effervescence of their age and the pitfalls of 
budding passions through such early vieterie« which train the soul for the most 
sublime and arduous of conquests. 

I invite the young people among my listeners, proud, of the warm-blooded inten- 
sity which makes you bold and urges you on in all your activities, whether 
athletic or scholarly, sacred or profane, so that you concur in the youthful 
fervor of Dominic de Guzman: come and consider this exemplary young man, whose 
very name claims him for the Lord. See him as he departs from his father's 
house, from the vigilant care of his mother, for the school established by his 
uncle, Archpriest of Cumiel de Izan. ^here he acquires, while dedicated to piety 


and devotion, the first elements of that instruction which will open to him the 
door3 of the diocesan chancery of Palencia, where there was a college of great 
renown in which dogma and all the sacred sciences were taught. Separated from 
his parents, he is well aware of Sod' 3 nearness and that the fear of God is the 
beginning of wisdom. He senses that the desolate sigh3 of his saintly mother * 
ascend to heaven on his behalf. He realizes furthermore that earnest concentrated 
study is the solid weapon and shield of a pure heart 1 wherein wisdom is pleased 
to sake its dwelling. Look with admiration, you young people, on :lhe rare and noble 
attractiveness of his calm, persevering virtue amid the pitfalls of adolescence. 
Appreciate the charm of a young man who retains the candor of his straight-forward 
gaze, who preserves that gentleness of spirit and manner which would give him a H 
through' his life the smiling, pleasant countenance that, drew everyone to himself. 
And this amid the tempestuous dispositions of his fellow students in the higher 
schools of letters, philosophy, the other sciences and the liberal arts. From fifteen 
to twenty years of age and beyond, in the morning of his life, the pleasant season 
of ' burgeoning forth, in the course of which, while the physical powers and faculties 
become stronger, ' the mind develops and grows more avid and expeditious in the diverse 

fascinating realms of knowledge, in studying the world, man himself and God at 

this period, let us observe Dominic. Re steadies the confident eagerness of adoles- 
cence by manly resolutions and solves the problem of life by orienting it toward 
the sublime purpose for which we are born: "The higher gifts are those you should 
aim at" (i Cor., 12:Jl). 

But not all understand this counsel; not all in their youth feel themselves 
equipped with the wings of an eagle, soaring toward the heights and, from the dizzy- 
ing alpine summits, perceiving its prey so as to swoop down upon it in the depths 
of a ravine. . Inspired by faith, the young Dominic rpaliz-ed that it is not in the 
pastures of the liberal arts that the heart is pacified; beyond human art studying 
and imitating nature, rises sublimely that superhuman wisdom, imitator of God, 
rendering us perfect and holy as our heavenly Father, as his only Son who deigned 
to make himself like ■unto us so that we might become like unto him. This is the art 
of the saints and of sanctity. Dominic's manly desire had ripened; he would be God's 
minister. From mortification he would draw new strength so as to give more attention 
to his soul; nothing would impede his study; by becoming more perfect, his mind and 
his will would develop and become more closely harmonized in God and in his Christ. 
The joy of learning would not obstruct his soul; it would transform the obligation 
and the triumphs of study; they would impel him to further holiness; they would 
help him to prepare for the priesthood. There is no need to seek for the one who 
directed him to the University of Palencia; his director was the Holy Spirit, speak- 
ing to him through the Sacred Scriptures and, together with a knowledge of revealed 
truth, teaching him in addition the wisdom of the spiritual life. Would he be satis- 
fied with pure speculation on faith? On the contrary, did he not study to make of 
faith the soul of his soul, the life of his life, the flame of his love for God and 
neighbor, the 3eal and format of his work, the star on his path? No, he was not one 
of those scholars of his epoch who separated mind from heart and, while pouring over 
Holy Scripture, remained insensitive to the fire which issued from it. 

At Palencia, the first halting-place of his life's journey, Dominic is already 
Dominic: the mature man, with strong thoughts, a resolute will, equipped like a hero, 
lovable as a child. He lays the foundations of hi3 own structure and prepares himself 
fa: the priesthood, makes ready the action, the 3k ruggles and the victories of the 
future. Drought and famine came upon the town unexpectedly and left the poor and 
indigent in extreme want and misery. In the face of such adversity, the heart of the 
charitable student from Caleruega came near to breaking. But what could he do to 
avert this scourge of widespread starvation? Recalling, after the manner of the saints, 


that the most excellent way is the way of Christ's charity, surpassing all knowledge 
and compassionating the afflicted, before the wondering eyes of his comrades and 
his casters, he sold the precious books he had acquired at great expense and annota- 
ted with great 3kill. With the money thus obtained he bought bread for the daily 
needs of the poor, ^e would have sold himself into slavery to ransom a certain man 
from captivity to the Moors; the latter was the sole support of a poor woman, his 
sister. But the hand of God found another means of rescuing him. 

From this noviceship in piety, study and charity at Palencia the renown of 
the devoted scholar had reached Osma, see city of his Bishop, Martin de Bazan, a 
zealous promoter of reform for the clergy, who had given a rule to the canons of 
his chapter. On the advice of their prudent Prior, Diego de Azevedo, he summoned 
Dominic, ordained him priest and appointed him Subprior of the reformed chapter 
of his cathedral. Dominic must have been about twenty-eight years old. Sod was 
placing him in a new setting 30 as to instruct and form him, with most delicate 
skill, for the undertaking to which He destined him and to make of him the wise 
master of the Preachers. 

In the shadow of the cloi3ter of the canons regular Dominic found a friend 
in the Prior, who shortly aftervards would become his Bishop, on the demise of 
Martin: a friend whose thoughts were capable of inspiring him, whose fervor en- 
kindled his own, while his example spurred him on in the ministry of saving souls. 
Thus little by little the Lord often gives to His most cherished champions, one 
after another, a companion; thus to the planet earth he gives, in its revolution 
about the sun, a moon to enlighten our nights. 

What were the subjects the two friends discussed in their colloquies, each 
in turn enkindling the other's devotion? That is God's secret; but if history does 
not record them, subsequent events *culd loudly proclaim them. 

Moved and guided by divine counsel, Dominic was advancing toward the goal 
marked out on the horizon of his life but still unknown to him. What did he see 
in himself, humble in his self-tcncwledge, amid the fellow students to whom he 
appeared as a flaming torch, first in holiness, last in the contempt in which he 
held himself , diffusing about him the fragrance of his virtue? He had plumbed the 
depths of his soul and, with regard to what God had sown there, he had seen a 
sheer veil, yet indistinct a3 the future must be. But he found there three strong 
loves on which he was building the present and the years ahead: an attraction to 
divine knowledge, to cloister, and to action: three loves which he intended to 
incorporate into a single love: that of Christ, the Savior of the world. 

The love for divine knowledge had impelled Dominic to seek out the science 
of the saints, as the means of correction and perfection for himself, in a 
resemblance to Christ, ^e plunged ever deeper into the reading of St. Matthew's 
gospel and the epistles of St. Paul: the two books, treasure stores of all wisdom, 
which he would carry with him throughout his lifetime. In these pages which had 
exalted and raised to sublimity the eloquence of a Chrysostom, Dominic refreshed 
himself with the water that rises even to eternal life; he savored the floods of 
Christ's charity for souls and Paul's as well; and: he sensed a seal for the apos- 
tolate throbbing in his bosom, the word of a preacher trembling on his lips. 

Within these pages he discovered the art of reconciling his two other loves: 
the cloister with action; while from the book of Collationes . or the Conferences 
of the Fathers, set down by Cassian, the monk, he learned how, beyond Nitria and 
the Thebaid, it is possible to struggle, advance and triumph in the spiritual 
desert. So it was that, in the shadow of Osma's cathedral, Dominic the Canon 
Regular became initiated into the recollection of the cloister and the observance 
of St. Augustine's Rule for the contemplative life. But in these contemplations, 


these prolonged colloquies with God by day and by night before the altar, in 
his laments and groanings over the misery of sinners, of abandoned and grieving 
souls, in the throbbing of his ardent charity, believing all things, enduring all 
things, hoping all things, his dream was not of a Cluniac or Cistercian monastery, 
nor of a Carthusian or Camaldolese solitude. It was rather of a Sinai where, like 
Moses, he could commune with God, and return — his brow all alight — to proclaim 
the divine law to an erring people; it was rather of a third heaven whence he 
would come down, like Paul, among the gentiles: a master of heavenly truths, a 
preacher of redemption and pardon. He longed for a desert of silence and of 
fasting where, like Christ, the Wisdom of the Father, the blessed seer, he might 
prepare himself for the struggle against the enemy of the human race, becoming the 
envoy and herald of the Gospel' in that greater Palestine, the terrain of Adam's 
unhappy offspring, wanderers, separated from each other by the remoteness of their 
souls and thoughts as such as by mountain ranges and the vastne'ss of the oceans. 

Yes, Dominic dreamed of a field open to his efforts and' his zeal; he 
envisioned a sanctity — if I may be allowed to call it such — which would not be 
static, but dynamic; the holy ideal of a crusader, a knight for Christ and his 
Church, for his heavenly Jerusalem; the holiness of a redeemer of slaves from 
error and sin rather than from prisons and galleys. Se would not be proud of his 
armor of steel or bronze, but of the weapons of the mind; like Paul, his loins 
girt with the belt of truth, clothed in integrity as in a coat of mail, shod with 
the gospel of peace, protected by the buckler of faith and the helmet of salvation, 
wielding the sword of the spirit which is the word of' Sod (Sph., 6:14ff). Oh 
Bernard of Clairvaux, great champion of the faith and the Church of Christ, gentle 
instrument of the Holy Spirit, mighty captain emerging from the cloister unattended, 
yet returning there with victories and laurels! Oh Bernard, perhaps it was of you 
that Dominio dreamed, but of you at the head of a legion as brave as yourself, of 
you leading them to battle in an open field. He dreamed of your exploits, recent 
enough to be vividly recalled; and they were to him a foreshadowing vision of new 
athletes, differently clothed, but resembling you in their active life, a^ a wan- 
dering champion preaching the truth and the faith on the highroads of Europe. They 
would be like you, calling out with a powerful cry, the cry of a roaring lion, terror 
of all the other beasts, going forth in early morning searcning for its prey, then 
exulting in its conquest as it returns at nightfall, not discouraged but dreaded, 
to rest in its den. 

Is there any need, my Brothers, of telling you that the cloister of the 
Cathedral of Osma was also to Dominic an open field for his zeal in behalf of 
souls, especially the afflicted, that he left off his contemplation of eternal 
verities so as to pour forth, with the ardor of his charity and the smile of his 
compassion, into wounded and desolate hearts the cleansing, comforting balm 
which heels and gives assurance of a better life? That the word of God resonated 
on his lips in the tones of an apostle, a father, a physician, a true friend? 
Among the Canons Regular of Osma and with his friend, Bishop Diego de Azevedo, 
Dominic appears to us, as morning announces the day, in the brilliant dawn of 
his zealous noviciate. Applied to such a gifted nature as his, such a discipline 
would instruct, fortify and prepare him to Combine, in the supereminent charity 
of Christ, a devotion to knowledge docile before love, together with that flame of 
contemplative and active self -giving wherein the preacher of the Word of God is 
formed, strengthened and inspired: "Preach the word..." 


Divine Providence, who chooses and prepares, in its counsels, the heroes 
of its marvelous enterprises, did not intend that Dominic remain at Osma. There, 
for eight years now his virtue and zeal for souls had shone forth as an intense 
and dazzling light. Where, then, in what town, in what region would he preach? 


Whereunto, my Brethren, would the hero of Caleruega, the "amorous paramour of 
Christian Paith, the athlete consecrate'*, as Alighieri sings of him, "kind to 
his own and cruel to his foes," (Par., XII,55ff) — would he progress by teaching 
and by will combined with the apostclic office, like a torrent urged on from a 
lofty height* would he wend his impetuous way and yield a splendor as 'lof light 
cherv'bical ,, (Par. , XI, 39)? Where, indeed, in all circumstances, by declaring 
the truth, by the power of God, wielding the weapons of righteousness in right 
hand and left, in honor and dishonor, praise and blame alike his lot, overworked, 
sleepless, starving, by patience and kindliness (II Cor., 6), will he cause to 
spring up and burgeon forth from the land, ievasted by strife this new garden of 
his dreams? Where will he find resonating through the voices of his comrades in 
zeal the harmonious utterances of his speech? In what place will the call of God 
declare to him: "Press the word home, on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient"? 

Listen. When, on the day appointed by Eimself , God sets his hand to the 
accomplishment of designs aimed at the salvation of souls, he then calls the hero 
to whom he has entrusted this work far away from the land where he lives. Holy 
Scripture witnesses. to this great spectacle when we hear God calling out to the 
Patriarch of all believers, Abraham, to whom he says: "Leave your own country, 
your kinsmen, and your father's house, and go to a country that I will show you. 
I will make you into a great nation." (Gen., 12:1-2). I find this divine decree 
repeated once more in behalf of the future Patriarch of the Preachers, not by way 
of a word resounding in his ear, but of one that penetrates his heart, where life 
throbs more deeply and impresses an impulse which stirs up and enlivens every 

I invite you to share my admiration, Brethren, for this man who, in company 
with his 3ishop, crosses the rugged frontiers separating Aragon from Gascony. He 
is leaving his native soil where there are cany who love and honor him, and he is 
bidding them farewell; he will not return, at least for a quarter of a century! 
riis heart will be the same, likewise his white tunic and black mantle; but the 
palpitations of his heart will encompass the whole world, like the shores trodden 
by the most vagrant of souls redeemed by Christ. He will come back, his face 
radiating its customary joy, but manifesting the profound thought of the wa.tchful 
father, responsible for his religious followers, quite close to his end, like the 
fallen champion who, at the moment of death, recalls the dear land that gave him 

At the present, experiencing nothing but an inexhaustible thirst for sacrifice, 
as the faithful companion of his Bishop, he cresses the Pyrenees, leaving behind 
the ominous peaks of the Maladetta on his descent into the smiling valleys and 
plains washed by the Garonne, a region as fertile as a promised land, but which 
at that time was a territory on which the curse of Chanaan seemed to have fallen, 
as it had upon that of Abraham (Gen., 9*25): "vursed be '.Canaan! " "At *hat tir-.e the 
Panaahites lived in this land" (Gen., 12:6). The C a naanite was the Albigensian 
heretic: a name which evokes among those unaware of its fatal errors, its religious 
and social dangers, ill-defined feelings, confusing virtue with vice. This was 
the first field to which God would assign Dominic and Bishop Diego; there would they 
wage their first battles and earn their first laurels; and there Dominic was to 
assemble his first regiment and raise the standards of his first conquests. 

}f the lateness of the hour allowed me time, my Brethren, I would spend it 
describing the miserable condition of Gascony and the neighboring regions toward 
the end of the twelfth century and the dawn of the thirteenth. You would see how, 
along with 'the renaissance of a people, the consistent rise of the epoch of chivalry, 
the ballads of the troubadors in the vernacular of the regions of Provence and 
Languedoc, there had also cone forth from the tomb, lifting its sinister head, the 
old heresy of the i'lanicheans and Gnostics. Coming to life again in the Orient, it 

[Translator's note: Quotes from Dante are Longfellow's translation, except on 
p. 11, where it was inappropriate. 


had penetrated into Lombardy and the Transalpine provinces, to appear publicly 
in the town squares, the courts, the assemblies, the churches and cloisters, to 
proclaim the insane belief in in two principles, two divinities, one good and the 
other evil, to condemn marriage, to spread the fable of transmigration of souls, 
to substitute for the divinity of the Christian religion the superstition of a 
useless "consolamentum" for the dying, moral licence, pharisaic abstinence, a 
deceptive ideal of perfection and holiness, the Catharist worship, preaching, 
ministry, asceticism and hierarchy which were nothing less than a lying imitation 
and profanation of the Church founded by Christ. You would find reigning supremely 
in the county of Toulouse and the 3outh of Prance this heresy of the Catharists, 
as St. Bernard had already seen it and as, shortly after his day, Raymond V, 
the wise Count of Toulouse, had indicated it when he said: "It has wormed its 
way in everywhere. It has sown discord in every family, separating husbands from 
their wives, sens from their fathers, granddaughters from their grandmothers. The 
clergy itself has succumbed to the contagion. The churches are deserted and falling 
into ruin. As for myself, I do what I can to impede so great a scourge, but I 
feel that my powers are unequal to the task. The greatest personages in my domain 
have allowed themselves to be corrupted. The common folk have followed their 
example. I no longer have the courage nor the strength to suppress the evil." 

It must not be thought, however, that the Holy See had remained an inactive 
spectator of such depredations. A Pontiff with the lofty mind and vigilant, uncon- 
querable soul of the great Innocent III was defending the rights of the Church, 
of Christian faith and morals, not only in Rome and Italy, but even beyond the 
Alps and the seas. While confronting the kings of Europe and the Saracens of the 
East, he had not forgotten this obstinate heresy along the banks of the Garonne 
and the Rhone, and the vain efforts put forth by his predecessors, Alexander III, 
Lucius III, and the other Popes, together with the Third Council of the Lateran, 
the Apostolic Constitution of Vercna, the Cardinal legates, Peter of St. 
Chrysogonus and Henry of Albano. Prom the first days of his elevation to the 
pontifical throne, his letters to the metropolitans and their suffragans, as well 
as to the princes of these provinces, the sending of new apostolic legates from 
the ^rder of Citeaux, Raynier, Peter of C'asteinau, John of St. Paul, Cardinal of 
St. Prisca, with Raoul and the other monks of Citeaux, under the leadership of 
their Abbot, Arnaud, all show him to us engaged in stirring up the inertia of 
the prelates, the lack of zeal on the part of the clergy, and winning back to 
the Catholic faith these straying noblemen and peasants. His tactic was gentle- 
ness: sermons, conferences, discussions with the teachers of heresy, rather than 
threats and ecclesiastical censures. But the error supported underhandedly or in 
full view by the powerful, encouraged by the nonchalance and ignorance of pastors, 
resisted all the zealous efforts of the legates and remained unconquered and 
powerful to such a point that, thoroughly discouraged, Peter of Castelnau — whose 
bicv-'-i w^ t® be shed at the hands of the heretics and steep this ungrateful soil — 
asked the Pontiff's permission to return to his beloved solitude and contempla- 
tion in hi3 monastic cell. But Innocent III, more intrepid and determined than he, 
Kept him at his post of duty, telling him: "It is in difficulty that virtue 
shines and is reinvigorated. You must not withdraw from the work We have entrusted 
to you... You did not succeed as you would have wished; but it is not success 
which God rewards, but labor... Bring to your evangelical task perseverance and 
determination; persist, reason, implore, and, by dint of patience and eloquence, 
bring back the Wandering sheep." i 

Do you not hear, my Brethren, in these words of Innocent the echo of Paul's 
adviae to Timothy: "Press it home on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient: 
use argument, reproof, and appeal, with all the patience that the work of teaching 


requires." Who read them in this papal document of January, 1205? Who had t£em 
impressed upon his heart and would make of them the law and rule of his life? I 
admire the legate, Peter de Castelnau who remains on the field of battle and gives 
his life for the faith; but I have no less admiration for this pilgrim whom I see 
arriving at Montpellier with the Bishop of Osma, meeting to confer with Peter and 
his Cistercian companions who were as discouraged as he was over the futility of 
their laborious efforts. He came from Some and had heard the apostolic appeal of 
Innocent which he carries in his heart, with the ardor of an audacious love unknown 
to the world, known only to the revered friend with whom he journeys in perfect 
communion of mind. It was the profound sentiment which the two pilgrims might have 
perceived, as they traversed Umbria, radiating also from the countenance of a young 
nan of Assisi, like them a future champion of Christ and disdainful of ostentation 
and affluence. It was the season for the knighthood of Christ's poverty. 

Diego, who in Rome had desired to lay at the Pope's feet the insignia of his 
dignity as bishop of °sma, so as to preach the gospel to the infidels, had, on the 
contrary, together with his companion, been invited by the great Pontiff to convert 
the Albigensians by going to the aid of Peter, the legate, and the Cistercians. 
Would their encounter at ^ontpellier be opportune or inopportune? Certainly it was 
fortuitous that the support of these two new companions should be added to the 
discouraged representatives of the faith; they were prepared to do battle against 
the enemies of truth. But what new weapons did they bring for doing battle and for 
carrying off the challenged victory? What new methods and advice? It was the method 
and counsel of Christ that Diego offered, of Christ who sent out his apostles to 
the lost sheep of Israel with the command: "As you go proclaim the message: 'The 
kingdom of Heaven is upon you.' Provide no gold, silver or copper to fill your purse, 
no pack for the road, no second coat, no 3hoes, no stick; the worker earns his keep." 
(Kt., 10:7, 9-^0). 

The Albigensian heresy was possessed of two powerful weapons in particular: 
their preaching of error and the austerity of life practiced by the masters who, 
under the name of the Perfect,' had no trouble, given the strictness of their 
poverty and way of life, to persuade the crowd of drifting believers and confirming i 
them in their false teaching and corrupt morality. With regard to these false teachers,) 
I would not say that tehy had all been hypocrites, for I know that more than one 
philosopher of the pagan world managed to scorn riches and practice stoic virtue 
which astonished people, even if it did not lead them to heaven. But was it not to 
be expected that these two weapons of preaching and poverty should have been blunted 
in the hands of the heretics and that the children of light should have appeared 
as more prudent than the children of darkness? not to be expected that where 
the st©ngholds of heresy were best fortified and its resistance most stubborn, the 
fire of the iivine word and the example of virtue would strike most forcefully? 
Was it not to be expected in the designs of Cod that, in the widest and mcst agitated ■ 
field, Dominic should have trained himself for battles whence he must come forth 
truly a leader for his disciples? From the school of wisdom at Palencia he had 
passed on to that of contemplation, and from the priestly ministry to the cloister 
of Osma. Was this the final preparation of his spirit for becoming the father of 
the Order of Preachers? no, my Brethren; you will see how the canon regular of 
Osma, on .the battlefields of Gascony and Provence, from being a soldier capable of 
bearing arms, became a captain and learned the art of guiding apostolic batallions. 

Against the haughty indigence of the Albigensian masters, together with Diego 
Dominic raised the new standard of mendicant religious poverty, begging food from 
hospice to hospice, walking barefoot, announcing the goodness and peace of Christ, 
preaching salvation by proclaiming to Zion: It is your God who will reign and not 
the prince of darkness and of the abyss. "How lovely on the mountains are the feet 


of the herald who comes to proclaim prosperity and bring good news, the new3 of 
deliverance, calling to Zion, 'Your God is king. 1 " (isa., 52:7). 

Oh the wondrous richness of the faith! God has set in our midst, on our altars, 
a Master in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, so that no "one 
may be led astray by subtle reasoning. "In him lie hidden all God's treasures of 
wisdom and knowledge... to save you from being talked into error by specious arguments." 
(Col., 2:3-4). He is master of truth for all times and places, a model of every 
virtue, infinitely imitable, sowing his counsels of chastity, submission, temperance, 
in the deserts of Anthony, the hermitages of Bruno and Romuald, the retreats of 
Basil and Augustine, the houses of Benedict, forever communicating new teachings and 
developing them through the centuries. In the school of this divine Master who, 
while the foxes have holes and the birds of the air their nests, has not whereon to 
lay his head, in this school the canon of Osma with his holy bishop learned the 
divinely heroic poverty lifted up upon the coss with Christ. Exalted with him above 
the earth, it has drawn to itself the universality of humankind, of epochs and of 
things; it has taught people's cupidity that whoever has nothing because of giving 
self, to the advantage of another, that one possesses all in the treasury of neighborly 
charity: "penniless, we own the world." (II Cor., 6:10). In the shadow of this 
tree of poverty turned cendicant, a seed planted by Christ in the religious garden 
of his Church, watered by Dominic de Guzman and Francis of Assisi, future centuries 
were to see gathered together an army of saint3 and virgins, varied in their vesture 
and observances, but relishing its fruits in an austere, laborious and crowning life. 

No less powerful was the weapon of the word by which the Albigensian masters 
of all ranks led the crowds after them into the strongholds and the churches they 
had usurped, challenging to debates on doctrine the sluggish clergy and the unwary 
prelates of that portion of Christ's flock. Against such an offensive, Dominic, in 
company with the Bishop of Osma, raised his voice in eloquent preaching. Cod, who 
becomes "a tower of strength for the oppressed, a tower of strength in time of need," 
(Ps. 9 : 10)» guides them both to the defense of that truth which was their shield 
in public disputes against the heretics at Servian, Beziers, Carcassonne, Yerfeil, 
and Montreal, fie opens to them a pathway through that wild forest, by which they 
could lead back some of the lost sheep to the fold of Jesus Christ and extend to 
other districts the ardor of their apostolic zeal, although the results were not yet 
fully commensurate with their privations and hardships. 

But to a great commander, the icpact of conflict inspires clear-sightedness in 
the contest. The Cistercian companions who remained with him thought that henceforth, 
to succeed better and overcome the obstinacy of the heretics, persecutors of the 
faithful, profaners of churches, enemies of divine worship, the swords of princes 
would be more effective than the word of the gospel. On the contrary, Dominic, who 
had learned from Christ meekness and humility of heart, who never considered himself 
vanquished by difficulties or obstacles, or amid dangers, contempt, insult, injury, 
threats of death, but was ever serene of spirit, unfailing in gentleness, and 
magnanimous in patience. — Dominic wished to overcome evil by good and to continue* 
U p to the most unassailable bulwarks of the heretics, giving battle with the sword 
of the word, with the arguments of faith, with sermons and prolonged discussions, 
if necessary, over a number of days, so as to strengthen the weak, to convince the 

straying, and to snatch his prey from the infernal prince of this world, "Press 
it home on all occasions, convenient and inconvenient, for the oppressed, in time 
of need." What seemed importunate to uijhers he considered to be an opportunity 
for victory; he was ready to give his life amid the most cruel torments .after the 
example of the gentle, silent Lamb who had loved him and given himself up for him, 
and not only for him, but for all men. 

But one day in January of 1208, death, in the person of a fanatical squire 
in the service of Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse, traitorously attacked the 


papal legate, Peter of Castelnau, on the banks of the Rhsne. This barbarous « me, 
as you can well imagine, ay Brethren, grieved the august Pontiff, Innocent II 
offended in his dignity and in the love which moved him to convert, not to d&. ;roy 
the wanderers. Against the enemies of the faith, scourge of the Christian people, 
assailants of the bonds of the family and civil society, ravagers of property and 
of Catholic, morals, there could be seen gathering along the plains and valleys of 
the Rhone and the ffaronne the new battalions of a crusade which Innocent strove to 
hold back, since he wished to curb its impetuosity, to mitigate and restrain its 
consequences. The Count of Toulouse, faithless tc his promises, was both the agressor 
and the vanquished; the heroic conqueror, with his banner, was Simon ie Montfort; 
the heralds were Arnaud, abbot of Citeaux, and Foulques, bishop of Toulouse. Let 
not historians be scandalized if some of the act3 of this epoch seem harsh: you 
know that this was not the only brutal war "over this threshing-floor which people 
dispute with so much ferocity", as the divine poet declaims (Par., XXII, 15W. But 
where was Dominic de Cuzman at this time? If, with regard to the heretics, he could 
no longer, as formerly, combat openly by preaching ani the word of Cod, he still 
struggled with the Lord to their advantage, as Jacob had with the angel, throughout 
the nights of his silent contemplation and the times of his severest trials. He 
could be seen during the terrible battle of iiuret, where they dug the grave of a 
king allied with the heretics, praying and weeping before the altars fox the faith 
of which the finest victory over the world is the victory for souls. You know, my 
brethren, what was his most shining sword: you possess it, it is in your hands — 
it is the Rosary of the Virgin ^ary, still "t'erritle as an army in battle array" 
(Song., 6:3). 

with his weapons, while he waited, Dominic had f ought under a great captain, 
his bishop Diego, begging his bread from door to door, preaching, -discussing; and 
recollecting themselves at the foot of that Albigensian citadel of Fanjeaux, at 
Prouilhe, where they rested and braced themselves for further undertakings. There 
they had already gathered in the fairest fruits of their conquest around the shrine 
of tfary: some noble young women, enlightened and converted among many others whom 
error had caused to wander from Christian faith and pieity. This was the the first 
monastery of consecrated virgins erected by Dominic and Diego 5 'in the region most 
hostile to the Catholic name. It was Bishop Diego's noblest trophy; he left and 
entrusted it to Dominic, as he took the road back to Osma for the last time. Fare- 
well, hero of Christ's charity and of His word, Dominic's father and master, pre- 
cursor of an apostolic band! You will not see Prouilhe nor your faithful friend 
again, but in his heart and in those of his sons your name will abide in eternal 
benediction, ''ou leave Dominic alone with three other companions of your labors; 
but the heritage of your spirit is within him; your work will remain. The canon of 
Osma will become Friar Dominic; he will be Prior of Prouilhe, founder and master 
to a legion of heralds of the Cospel and of truth. 

Let us marvel at Dominic, my Brethren: for eight years, practically alone, 
he persists in following the path marked out by Diego; he presses the word home 
to the heretics on all occasions, convenient and inconvenient. His mind filled with 
the great idea of the reform of the "clergy and of the apostoiate, with the dangers 
inherent in the Albigensian and Valdensian heresies usurping the preaching faculty 
of bishops and clergy; rich in the poverty of Christ, he advances against the 
strongest citadel of error, Toulouse. There' he establishes the active center of 
his apostolic missions. He finds there another friend, Bishop Foulques, a counter- 
part of Diego in zeal. He encounters a prosperous citizen who offers him board and 
lodging and himself as companion. With a small group of followers and under the 
shadow of episcopal authority, he sows the seed for the gigantic tree which 
becomes the Friars Preachers. I hail this soil where the memory of his first journey 
and the conversion of his heretical host calls Dominic back to confirm the faithful 
in the right way, dispel heresy, combat vice, become a master and defender of dogma 


and morals, and at the same time increase and form, like an able leader, the little 
group of his disciples in the territory of Toulouse, before making the whole world 
the field of their enterprises. I hail these battlements, mirrored in the Garonne, 
nest of the great-winged eagle, dear also to my heart, for cne day the greatest of 
its eaglets, the genius of Aquinas, would rest there in his mortal remains; return- 
ing from the highest contemplation of heaven and earth, he would see once more the 
cradle of his first brethren, awaiting in the resurrection the renewal of his youth. 

But let us not anticipate the time! If for the Order of Preachers the dawning 
points to Toulouse, it is in Rome that its noonday was to shine forth. At the time 
of the. fourth Lateran Council, convoked by Innocent III in 1215, Foulques of 
Toulouse and Dominic of Guzman were in the Eternal City seeking the confirmation of 
the new religious institute of Toulouse missionaries. The great Pontiff, who agreed 
with the Council that preaching the word of the divine Shepherd was the proper 
ministry of bishops, and that no new religious order should receive approbation, 
found their request inopportune. But it was not inopportune in the designs of God 
who had inspired it in Dominic and who would soon, by a mysterious vision, cause 
Innocent to yield and incline him to take the monastery of Prouille under his 
protection, to praise the apostolic zeal of Dominic by urging him to choose from 
among the already approved apostolic rules the one he would follow. 

As for Dominic, if at Rome the sun had appeared for him on the horizon, it 
had not yet reached its zenith. But in that mother-city he had encountered the 
benevolence of the Sovereign Pontiff's nephew, Cardinal Ugolino Conti, a friend who 
was to glorify the two new Patriarchs: one of them Dominic himself who "by his 
wisdom upon earth a splendour was of light cherubical", the other "all seraphical 
in ardour" (Par., XI, 37-39)» This seraphic Patriarch, who in his intensity had 
already trodden the roads of France and Spain with which Dominic was acquainted, 
had met Dominic in the devout semi-darkness of a church in that Roman ambiance. 
It was an admirable spectacle for the angels to see the two most passionate votaries 
of voluntary poverty recognizing each other as if in a heavenly apparition, 
embracing, declaring their brotherhood and companionship in the following of Christ 
and for His mission. This kiss of peace is renewed from generation to generation, from 
century to century, among the sons of Dominic and Francis when, traversing various 
roads, they meet on the vast fields of the Church of God. Hew many campaigns and 
victories they share! What acts of heroism together! How many dangers and struggles 
in common! How many mutual trophies and crowns! In the rays of the divine sun do 
they not sparkle upon the diadem of Christ's Bride with marvelous brilliance ,like 
diamonds and rubies? 

But meanwhile, behold Dominic a third time in that Rone which he had left 
in company with Foulques to return to Toulouse, rejoice there to see the number 
of disciples increased, gather them together and unite them at Prouilhe, select a 
rule, according to the Pope's advice — namely that of St. Augustine — make it the 
basis of an apostolic Order wherein Contemplation would be at the service of action, 
study of the word of the gospel, fasting and prayer of vigorous, intrepid virtue, 
erect the first convent near the church of St. Romain at Toulouse, and appoint a 
vicar to represent him. He goes back to the banks of the Tiber with the new Consti- 
tutions of the Order of Preachers. He no longer finds the great Pope Innocent on 
the throne of Peter, but his successor, Honorius III; prostrating before him, he 
implores the confirmation of his work. 

High noon had struck. Honorius engraves, as if on rarble.'the character he 
recognizes in the Order established by his dear son, Dominic, prior of St. Romain 
of Toulouse, the approval he grants to this Order of future champions of the faith 
and true torchlights for the world. Exult, illustrious lineage' of Dominic! 


Honorius even affixed your name: the prior and the brethren of St, Remain would 
traverse the centuries before the princes and people of the Church under the 
name and escutcheon of the Preachers. Exult, Dominic! The tree you planted with 
approval or disapproval, would grow and extend its life-giving branches into the 
boundless skies. The eagle's nest you built would send forth its magnanimous sons 
beyond the summits of the Alps and the shores of the ocean. In the full noonday 
radiating and shining upon you, a new sun would appear rivalling the light of day. 
"Press it home on all occasions, convenient or inconvenient." 


You know that the works of the saints are the works of God; of that God who 
from the height of his throne in the new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, said 
to the evangelist of Patmos ravished in ecstasy: "Eehold, I make all things new" 
(Apoc. 21 i 5 y - God ices not withdraw his hand from his work, but abides and persists. 
And in the course of centuries, amid human vicissitudes, favorable or not, which 
surround the bark of Peter like the waves of the sea, calm or tempestuous, he pro- 
vides and equips it with new oarsmen, guides and impels it toward new ports and 
further eonqaest3 across the immensity of an ocean of peoples. By means of the 
Order of Preachers founded by Dominic, the Savior of the world was renewing his 
work, as he had done in Palestine when, at the side of the twelve Apostles, he 
placed the company of seventy-two disciples, selected from among the elite of 
those who followed him, and sent them, as cooperators with the Apostles, to preach 
the kingdom of God and care for 30uls. Was this not a new work, the institution 
of an Order of religious, no longer tranquil dwellers in the deserts, mountains 
or valleys, or canons living in the shelter of a cloister, or faithful ransomers 
of unhappy wretches condemned to the galleys or fallen into slavery, but coming 
forth from the retirement of a cell which had witnessed their prolonged contem- 
plation, their study and their fasts, to break and distribute to the people, 
to the wandering flocks hungering after' faith and truth, the bread of the divine 
word to nourish, not their bodies but their souls? Let the disdainful poverty of 
Valdo keep silence, rebellious as it was against the legitimate shepherds of the 
flock of Christ and usurping the ministry of the sacred word. That is not how 
Dominic went about it. It was under the aegis of obedience to a bishop that he 
dedicated himself to preaching; under the aegis of obedience to a bishop that he 
preached along the banks of the Rhone and the G ar0 nne; under the aegis of obedi- 
ence to a bishop that he became a recruiter and father of a legion of preachers 
whom the bishop of bishops, the Vicar of Christ, constituted an advanced guard of 
champions of the faith and true lights of the world. This is the new and great 
idea of the Order of Preachers ; here is the new rampart and the new garrison of 
soldiers and defenders, ready for the most difficult forays, the most remote 
attacks against ignorance, the most ensnaring ambushes 3et up against faith and 
truth, against the corruption and perversion of good sense and Christian virtue. 
Here at their head is the captain, elect of God, who would guide the new knights- 
errant, promulgators of the Gospel, in their pursuit of people's salvation. 

What an admirable captain! Of invincible courage, of extraordinary harmony 
between thinking and willing, of an intelligence wherein the Wisdom of the Gospel 
and of Paul shines supremely beyond every other kind of knowledge; athirst for 
Christ alone and Kim crucified, endowed with a nature rich in a courage and kind- 
ness capable of forming and raising above the ordinary those heroes who create 
new forms of religious and Christian life. He is a captain who seems to be master 
of the art of withstanding false doctrines, a priest in that of exhortation and 
prayer, a father in that of magnanimity and counsel. Master, priest and father: 
but lovable with a sweetness full of forebearance, a patience recognizing the 
full value of all his projects and all his works, and a mastery skillful in 
discerning the way to the heart so as to achieve every victory. Use argument, 


reprcof, and* appeal, with all the patience that the work of teaching requires." 

Does it astonish you that, under the flag which such a leader brought back 
from Rome to Toulouse, hallowed by the seal of Christ's Vicar, his comrades 
should be filled with joy, prepared to follow him loyally along the steep, rugged 
path of the Constitutions he had written, listen to his instructions, respond to 
his appeals which were entreaties rather than commands, correct and overcome them- 
selves in trials which the example of their father softened and rendered attract- 
ive in the eyes of his sons, when it was a question of gaining a challenging 
vistory over self? 1 can see them gathered around their beloved father in the 
convent of St. Romain in Toulouse, on the feast of Mary's Assumption in 1217. 
It was a memorable day when Dominic, after having his vicar elected for govern- 
ing, would speak to his sons with the authority of first Master of the Order with 
the vision and memory of a saint in whose ear still resounded the order from 
heaven re-echoing Paul's cry: "Go, and preach!" He would 3ay to them, to the 
great wonder of nobles and plain folk: "Co, preach to all the nations", and he 
would disperse them among the peoples. From a handful of sixteen followers, he 
would keep two in Toulouse and two for the direction of the nuns at Prouilhe; 
he would send four into Spain to sow the seeds of highest virtue; Paris would 
receive seven of them who would steep their minds in scholarly pursuits at the 
newly founded University. They would establish the famous convent of Saint-Jacques, 
future abode and school of the two greatest geniuses of the century, Albert the 
Creat and Thomas of Aquin. I shall not rehearse how the pain of separation from 
their father was alleviated by the hope of seeing him again; how poverty went with 
them from door to door on their way; how they would find new friends, other com- 
panions, and, within the space of our years, founded houses beyond the Pyrenees 
at Segovia, rt adrid, Palencia, Barcelona, Santarem, Zamora, and beside Toulouse, 
after Paris, Lyons, ^ntpellier, Bayonne, Puy-en-Velay and Narborme; how they 
would reach even into Hungary, Germany, England and Scandinavia. I shall not follow 
these heralds of the word of God in their careers, for their master and father 
calls to me, he who, with one companion, Stephen of Metz, departs from the banks 
of the Garonne to cross the Alps and prostrate a fourth time at the feet of Peter's 
successor: he comes to establish in this holy city the most secure, the most 
glorious sanctuary of his work. 

Following the path of Dominic during the last three years of his life when 
his increasing ardor puts wings on his feet for the purpose of spreading, visiting 
and organizing the Order of Preachers is more difficult for my inadequate words 
than tracing the steps of his disciples. It is easier to contemplate the eagle 
encouraging his young to fly by wheeling about above them than to keep one's gaze 
fixed on the majestic sweep of his wings among the precipices and valleys of his 
alpine kingdom. Will it not suffice to point him out, indefatigable at this decline 
of his life, climax of his story and his sanctity: the reform of the monastery of 
Prouilhe and the foundation of the Sisters of the Order of Preachers, the inaugu- 
ration of the Militia of Christ, the great plan of selecting as seed-bed and 
garden of his new plantations Paris, the University of the sciences, and Bologna, 
the University of law; the captivating of great personages and professors so that 
they became his followers; his treks back and forth through France and Spain to 
revisit and meet with his sons experimenting with the rule he had chosen; missions 
and conquests among the heretics of the Lombard regions, founding the convents of 
Bologna, Bergamo, Milan, 'erona, Piacenza, Brescia, Florence and Siena; illnesses 
and cures, dangers and rescues, welcomes and rejections, joy and sorrow; all that 
was fortuitous and adverse, favorable and prejudicial, meeting in his magnanimous 

undertakings; two Chapters general held at 3ologna to reaffirm voluntary poverty 


and render it stricter, and, exhausted in body and nigh unto death, three journeys 
to the banks of the Tiber? 

Here at Rome, stop for a moment, my' brethren, to admire the founder of the 
Preachers. On this soil, made rugged by its seven hills, the heart of Latium and 
of the world, Dominic had also given his mind and heart. More than the annals of 
a glory submerged by the migration of nations, he read, amid the ruins of majestic 
Imperial monuments, the heroic deeds of Peter and Paul. The word of Peter's 
successor was to him the solution for every doubt, such as the debates arising 
from the Paris foundation, the revision of the Order's Constitutions, the resist- 
ance and problems encountered in the erection, opposite the Baths of Caracalla, 
of the monastery of St. Sixtus. There, to increase discipline and piety under the 
rule of the Sisters coming from Prouilhe and the direction of his disciples, he 
reassenbled the nuns of St. Mary and St. Bibbiana, and this before Honorius III 
had bestowed upon the Preachers the basilica and house of Santa Sabina on the 
sunny slopes of the Aventine. 

It was here that he received among his brethren Reginald of Orleans, professor 
of law at the University of Paris. Shortly after the latter's return from the Holy 
Land to which his devotion to the tomb of Jesus had drawn him, the two academic 
centers of Bologna and Paris would hear him preach like a new Elias and see him 
clothe famous professors and students filled with zeal in the white scapular which 
Mary had given him in a vision. Here the apostclic voice of Dominic would touch, 
convert, attract to virtue both the humble and the great. His words resounded in 
the basilicas and the pontifical court. His prayer, which worked miracles, amazed 
populace and princes, while his affability, his gentleness and his charity trans- 
formed admiration into affectionate regard, that regard into veneration for his 
holiness; and that veneration into generous assistance. 

Hence I io not hesitate to claim Dominic as a Roman citizen: Roman after the 
manner of Christ, after the manner of Peter, shepherd of the universal sheepfold, 
Roman after the manner of Paul, apostle and doctor of the nations. From the first 
kiss which the canon of Osma imprinted, together with his bishop Diego, on the 
sacred stone of the Vatican, when he ardently desired martyrdom among the infidela, 
the preacher of C asC ony, the founder of the Order of Preachers, the prince of 
religious legislators in the Middle Ages, felt and experienced that the divine 
source of life murmured here, that from it gushed forth, limpid and salutary, the 
royal stream of eloquence and the apostolic word, watering the vine of Christ and 
rendering it fruitful even to the ends of the earth. Just as, the first time he 
had come to the eternal city with Bishop Diego, original inspirer of his apostolate, 
so now, at the moment of leaving it for the last time, he would find himself there — 
blessed favor from heaven! — with Foulques, bishop of Toulouse, the second supporter 
of his work, delighted that the great enterprise of the prior of St. Rooain in his 
see city should be receiving a higher approbation than his own, that of the Sovereign 
Pontiff who confirmed, protected, and extended it to the whole world. It was the 
last salutation that Dominic would offer to Rome and to his generous friend from 
Toulouse, whose holy friendship was redolent of that charity which 

Henceforth, oh great Patriarch of the Preachers, leave this holy city, to 
which your thought, your heart, your name, your glory, and, during these memorable 
•days to the joy of the faithful, also the signal relic of your sacred head will 
return, but never you in life. Bologna awaits you, your wisdom as father and master 
is expected by your devoted sons gathered for the second General Chapter. The 
magistrates are waiting to grant you the freedom of the city as well as the warm- 
hearted crowd of young students from that celebrated University. 


Yes, the students were special friends of Dominic. Arriving in Bologna, he 
mingled with them, joined their groups, lived in their midst. H e talked with thee 
about the great problems of their life, their plans, their hepes. Hew lovely to 
observe his white tunic among them, symbol of the lily, and the black mantle, 
like a darkened dying rose. Here, you young students, are the great problems of 
this life opening up before you, as a garden planted in the most charming and 
fragrant of blooms. The love which Dominic bears for you is the leve of Christ 
for that young man He invited to follow Him. As he left them he urged them with 
gentle affection to spurn the world and to remember death: "Believe me, my dear 
friends," he 3aid to them, "before long I shall leave this life." 

And I can see him sone months later, in that year of 1221, after a journey 
to Venice to which he had hastened to pay a visit to his great protector, the 
Cardinal ^egste Ugolino, coming back broken by travel 1 , by suffering, fatigue, 
vigils, fasting, and an illness which threatened his life. Should I mention death 
on this day of joy and glory, before this altar aflame with lights which make the 
vestments of mourning pale and banish every melancholy thought? Oh yes, I shall 
speak of it because *the death of the saints is their birth into the life of glory, their tomb is an altar and the cradle of their immortality. Dominic dies; 
he dies as a Friar Preacher. From his bed of pain at Bologna, as from the threshold 
of heaven, he preaches and commends to the circle of his sons who weep, both novices 
t and proven religious, the truths which he had urged upon his congregations a 
thousand times: "use argument, reproof, and appeal, with all the patience that the 
work of teaching requires." 

His last words are a warning, an appeal and a threat, accents which had never 
been heard escaping from his lips; he manifests a patience which overcomes all the 
blows of death; he teaches a lesson which is already lighted by all the gleams of 
approaching eternity. "Have charity; preserve humility; persevere in voluntary 
peverty, I conjure you; the wrath of God will fall upon these who dare to violate 
it." This testament, illustrious Friars Preachers, these solemn recollections of 
your blessed Patriarch — as attested by seven centuries — were the song at your 
cradle, the spur to your steps, the nourishment for your life, the insignia of 
your glory. 

It was thus that he left this earthly field of battle for the blessed peace 
of heaven, this great Founder, Legislator and first faster of the Crier of Preachers, 
unconquered athlete of the faith and of the Bride of Christ, the gentle teacher of 
the straying, the friend of youth, with noble brow, inspiring respect and affec- 
tion, joyful of face, ever smiling except when moved by the grief of his neighbor. 
The faithful servant wa3 entering into the joy of his Lord; here below, surrounding 
his venerated mortal remains, amid bishops, abbots, prelates, lords and the populace 
deeply moved, the Cardinal legate, ogolino Conti, a.; spokesman for the Church, 
prayed aloud. It would be he, after his elevation to the splendor of the Supreme 
Pontificate, who was destined, under the name of Gregory IX, to crown with the 
nimbus of sanctity the two greatest Patriarchs of his century: along side the 
Seraphic Poor Kan of Assisi, the Cherub of Caleruega. This halo of sainthood has 
shone forth for seven hundred years upon our altars about the head of Dominic, and 
todayamid the splendor, the harmony and the chant of this magnificent temple dedi- 
cated to the Mother of Divine Wisdom, he proclaims to the world how it is possible 
to be raised to the altar bearing in hand the lily and the torch of apostleship. 
"Preach the word, press it home on all occasions, .convenient or inconvenient: use 
argument, reproof, and appeal, with all the patience that the work of teaching 
requires. "' 

* * 


From this altar whose century-old glory is so dazzling and on which Dominic's 
head is exposed in an exquisite reliquary for the devotion of the faithful, he 
speaks, almost prophecies; he is addressing us as well, "May the bones of the ... 
prophets also send forth new life from the ground where they lie" (Ecclus. ,49: 10). 
In the first place it is to you that he speaKs, generous and worthy 30ns of so 
great a Patriarch, who as athletes of the faith and lights of the world have 
learned and are learning from him to run in his footsteps, as much by example of 
the most evident virtue as by speech. He is your glory, just as his crown is your 
illustrious company gathering palms and laurels from age to age down through the 
centuries, "grandchildren are the crown of old age, and sons are proud of their 
fathers" (Prov., 17:6). If about this altar, under the vaulting of this church, 
the centuries were to reassemble £he noble ranks of Preachers, amid the splendor 
of its Popes and Cardinals, how many bishops' mitres they could already exhibit! 
Hew many legates, nuncios, apostolic commissaries, ambassadors and councillors 
of kings, peacemakers and apostles, masters and doctors, writers and philosophers, 
theologians and mystics, ascetics and saints! And the leaders of this holy band, 
the Universal Doctor, Albert the Great and the Angel of the Schools, Thomas Aquinas, 
for whom divine and eternal designs prepared (in order to give him as a sun to 
the world of scholars and as a shining light against the murky enemies of the 
faith^ "She bosom of Dominic's cloister and the classroom of the most celebrated 
of masters! 

But how idle are my words "addressing athletes who plunge ahead to attain 
the goal pointed out to them by so holy a leader and father! Hence I shall 
admonish myself and you as well, happy by my halting speech to render more vivid 
and energetic the invitation Dominic addresses to us to imitate him as he became 
an imitator of Christ and of 3i3 apostle Paul. If our word does not reach the 
sublimity of the conceptions of Dominic or Thomas Aquinas, of a Chrysostom or an 
Augastine, it can nevertheless be disseminated in the humble preaching of a wise 
counsel, a devout warning, a gentle reply, a holy prayer, an opportune correction, 
a charitable insistence which makes itself heard. If the intention motivating 
our message finds no place to alight, let our example, our actions, speak and 
preach, let our patience become instruction and doctrine. Did not the divine 
Master begin by doing before teaching? Does not example persuade and convince 
more than speech? 

If the model of Dominic's virtue is a sermon to us, let our example be an 
exhortation to good for those around' us, for our families, for all those who see 
us often and have dealings with us. Is it not the cowardice of a timidly Christian 
soul when his virtue and goodness recoil before the malice and contempt of the 

Between this blind, corrupting world and the Church, Bride of Christ, there 
still rise up today, as in Dominic's time, tragic, insurmountable obstacles. If 
Christ was set up as a sign of contradiction (Lk.,2:34); if from the beginning, 
the furious hatred of the petty, proud fanaticism on the part of the Pharisees 
was aroused, as well as the frivolous materialism and haughty arrogance of the 
pagans, how could tne Church expect a different welcome for her preaching of the 
Gospel in today's world? Weak, fearful natures can be terrified before such 
obstacles and the consequent need to admit one's faith frankly and face up to 
painful struggles. But the Church of Christ and all those who belong to her 
recognise that "love must not be a matter of words or talk; it must be genuine 
and show itself in action" (i Jn. , 3*18). They do not flinch in such trials. As 
mother of 'souls, She suffers from the misunderstanding and enmity into which the 
errors of our time lead so many of Eer children. But She also knows that her 
apostolate is an apostolate of truth; to sacrifice even a single iota of the 


Deposit of Faith to the broad but shallow currents of modern errors would be to betray 

Her divine mission to 3ave the world. The program of the prophets of error in our 

day is to dethrone Christ. "We do not want thi3 man as our king" (Lk., 19M4). Such 

is the cry uttered in unison by those who preach social upheaval and promise the 

deluded and enslaved populace an earthly paradise whence Christ is banished, those 

who would wish to exclude the Church from public life and replace the divine mystery 

of Christ by a new '•myth" negating and destracti-ve of all Christian civilization; 

those who reject all revealed truth and, like Lucifer at the dawn of creation, revolt 

against divine law. The Church suffers with Christ; She does not come to terms with 

the Antichrist. No flattery, no threat, no proposal, no violence will ever succeed 

in hindering Her from calling the truth the truth, error error, a. lie a lie, injustice 

what is not just. There is no iniquitous judge, no dungeon so dark, no harshness of 

imprisonment, exile, frozen solitude for deportation which can ever fetter the word 

of God, for "the word of God is not shut up" (il Tim., 2:9). And nothing in the 

world could prevent the Church from reminding Her courageous but suffering children 

of the strong, consoling words of the Savior, a harbinger of certain victory: "Do 

not fear those who kill the body and after that have nothing more they can do" (Lk.,12:4-)» 

Let us not fear the world: let us fear God. Let us follow, hearken to and 
invoke His saints so as to share in the joy by which*, in the heavenly fatherland, 
God will recompense infinitely their earthly exile. 

Yes, oh glorious Patriarch, we ixvoke you. Fragrant lily from the virginal vales, 
indefatigable herald and propagator of faith and truth, father of unconquerable 
champions and admirable masters of the flock of Christ, you know how to persuade gently 
and sweetly, to encourage in every virtue. Since' you have been and still remain an 
incomparable teacher of the sons you have chosen, be also our master in the true path3 
of doctrine leading to salvation! Destroy in our minds the senseless wisdom of the 
world, the mad clamor of uncontrolled passions! May the light of this day which for 
seven centuries has raised you to the veneration of the Christian people impress your 
teachings indelibly upon our hearts! Teach us — all of us — how watching before the 
tabernacle of God, present and hidden, charity is enkindled, inflamed and dilated, 
blazing up into the love of neighbor, and transforms into an instrument for good 
both poverty and suffering, study and prayer, the domestic hearth and the streets 
of the city. Teach us how the faith of Peter and of that Rome you loved so much 
should urge us, by the cries of the martyrs buried there, to esteem the salvation 
of the soul above the conquest of the world, to bear the name of Christian with an 
unmasked face, to increase in merit for heaven in the course of our mortal life, 
to help and enlighten our brethren. Teach us how at your school, even in the soul 
of a humble virgin , in this Catherine of Siena who sleeps under the altar at the 
feet of her heavenly Spouse, your own zeal for souls and for the Church penetrates 
her inmost depths and engenders such heroism^ how a holy audacity, confidence in 
God and the word of eternity triumph; how the faith which works through charity 
overcomes the world. Be our master, our consoler and our intercessor in the vicissi- 
tudes, joyous or sorrowful, of our lives, in the risks of righteousness and the 
magic spell of evil, in the constant daily struggle to safeguard in ourselves 
the divine image purified and sanctified by the 31ood which takes away all the sins 

of the world, which opens heaven to us and admits us into the bliss and peace of 
eternal glory with God. Amen. So be it! 

The. tArniblaZion o£ thli> dl&couAAe. which uxu> dellveAe.d filfcty yeaja> ago 
hoJ> been made, to honon. the. seventh ce.nteiuviy oft the. canonization o^ St. Dominic. 




Perfect love — is it not entirely, completely 

merciful love--in this life? 
Human weakness — sin — plunges through the 

vulnerability of one who loves. 
The open heart cannot shield itself from this 

sword of sorrow, received in paroxysm of 
deepest pain--for to shield, would be to deny love. 

Yet, in this abyss of suffering, the heart 
finds the "way of forgiveness" and expands 

in the likeness of Crucified Love Incarnate. 
In compassion and mercy, the heart pours 

forth its very substance over the whole of 
wounded humanity. 

Is this net Supplication — to the One who alone 

heals the broken-hearted and binds all wounds J 

Pouring forth of soul in redemptive desire — 
Pouring forth of Divinely Precious Blood 

in redemptive Sacrifice — 
Centuries of time disappear as the two acts unite. 
And the drama of human salvation proceeds from 

this unending fount of Merciful Love... 

from SUMMIT. 



Los Angeles 

If we are the Contemplative Branch of an Apostolic Order, then we first must be true contemplatives 
in order to be effective members alive to the demands of that vocation. From our inception we have always 
had our definite place and purpose, that is contemplatives in an apostolic order. May we live out our true vo- 
cation in all its demands. Let us see what three great popes have had to say about the contemplative and the 
apostolic elements of religious life. 
"More than is realized, the world is in need of your presence and your witness. It is therefore important 
to show forth the authentic and absolute values of the Gospel to a world which only too often exalts life's 
relative values while running the risk of losing its sense of the divine." 

The same Pope in speaking to the Jesuit Provincials in 1982 said: "In fact, Ignatious was convinced that all 
apostolic activity has value and is efficatious only if it flows from that 'union between the instrument (person) 
and God. '."<? 

"They are neither forgotten nor detached from the communion of the Church of God, but rather that they 
make up its heart, they multiply its spiritual wealth, they participate in its suffering, its fatigue, its apostolate, 
its hopes, they increase its merits." 

This same Pope said to Contemplative Nuns as early as 1 966. "In the Church you have been assigned not 
only a place but a function." and "You are in the heart of the Church." 4 

"For the contemplative life belongs to the fullness of the Church's presence, and should therefore be estab— 
tablished everywhere." 5 The same Pope said: "The apostolate, in the true sense of the word, consists in 
the salvific work of Christ, which is possible only through personal sacrifice. In fact, it was particularly through 
His prayer to the Father and through His self— immolation that the Savior redeemed the human race which 
was bound and crushed by sin. Hence it is that whoever endeavors to follow Christ in this essential aspect 
of His saving mission, even though he abstain from external action, exercises the apostolate nevertheless in 
a most excellent way." 6 

This is just a sample of the wisdom and loving guidance of many great and holy persons who helped to shape 
the Documents of the Church and especially those directed to contemplatives. They were reiterati ng what 
all the old masters of the contemplative life have been saying, even as Christ in the Gospel. Pachomian liter- 
ature, later Cassian and the early Benedictines and their works were of so much influence to Our Holy Father 
Saint Dominic in establishing his "great order" as it came to be called, an innovation of preaching contem-t- 

Every century of the Church has had its Saints and Blessed, leaders, each in his or her turn contributing 
to that contemplation that diffuses itself within the Church keeping it ever old and new. In other words, the 
basics of prayer and sacrifice have always been the warp and woof of true holiness, even down to our own time 
through Dominic, Albert, Thomas, Catherine and all the rest, down to our own present day saints and blessed. 

"Withdrawal from the world for the sake of leading a more intimate life of prayer in solitude is nothing other 
than a very particular way of living and expressing the Paschal Mystery of Christ which is death ordained 
toward ressurection."^ 

It was so gratifying to read between the lines in Conference Communications and Dominican Monastic Search 
to see how all the great documents of the Church had first been pondered very deeply in persons out of great 
love of Church and Order, before they were written down. Let us not slacken our pace now but in prayer 
and sacrifice meet the challenge of our times, and live our lives being what we are, contemplatives. Let us hold 
firmly to our place and function in the Church and in the Order. 


We shall always be grateful for the fatherly guidance of the late Father Fernandez who was Master Gener 
al at the time of the introduction of our present constitutions. It was his great solicitude that made them abail — 
able in 1971 and it was Father Vincent Couesnongle, his successor, who in his wisdom againd approved them 
in 1-983. May they soon receive the stamp of finalization. The three paragraphs that show so clearly our place 
and purpose in the Church and in the Order seem to be these three: 


"Therefore the specific mission of the contemplation vocation is to take up, cultivate and promote that which 
is deepest and best in the life of the Church; wherefore Dominican Nuns ought to have a clear awareness that 
they themselves, by their profession, are wholly consecrated to the Church and are called to the task of spread 
ing the kingdom of God in the world, using those means which though they do not have an apparent out- 
ward manifestation, are nevertheless endowed with a marvelous fruitfulness." 

"The Dominican Family has a certain global unity, like the universal Church. The end of the whole Order, 
namely, to give to others the fruits of contemplation, cannot be achieved in all the fullness proper to it unless 
all the members of the family work together. The special task of the Dominican Nuns plays the highest part 
in this cooperation, and is therefore of the greatest importance." 

"Thus the contemplative life of the nuns contributes most importantly to the apostolate of the Order, not 
only because, like other contemplative souls, they offer their life and prayer to God to supply the apostolic 
needs of the Church, but also because their life and contemplation, as far as they are truly Dominican, are [ 
from the beginning, of their very nature and essentially ordered to the apostolate which the entire Dominican _ 
Family exercises, in which the fullness of the Dominican vocation consists." 8 I 

ither Fernandez's letter certainly sums up our need for an on— going renewal. ■ 


Father Fernandez's letter certainly sums up our need for an on— going renewal 




Here we can see how beautifully these constitutions follow the original norms of PERFECTAE CARITATIS 
written many centuries latter, and in our present constitutions under, the Following of Christ p. 6 we can see 
these same norms: 
"Continual return to the sources, adjustment of the community to the changed conditions of the times, always 
back to the Gospel, the spirit of the founder and the original goal, participation in the life of the Church, 
prayer and liturgy and suitable awareness of the contemporary human conditions and the needs of the church. "# 
This awareness of contemplatives in the Church does not mean knowing all particulars of current events but 
rather our presentation to Christ in prayer daily at Mass and Divine Office especially, our whole beings in complete^ 
self— giving to christ, in other words, our being what we are, contemplatives. This seems to be our suitable awareness. 


As stated in N. 96, Our Holy Father St. Dominic should be as the mirror of our life. 10 He was the 

man of God and a faithful imitator of Jesus and Mary. We also have a renewed veneration in the liturgy of all 
our Saints and Blessed, old and new. New Blessed to some but ever old to most of us. Christ in the Godpel 
and Him prefigured in the old testament comes out so clearly in the pages of these constitutions. If our lives 
portray Christ going apart to pray, to give glory to His Father in secret, to interceed for the world and hidden 
in the Eucharist for our daily bread, then we find Mary, Our Mother the perfect model of our life. 11 It was she who 
learned these contemplative elements most perfectly, and in her love communicated them to others, first to 
Joseph, who lived so intimately with Jesus and Mary in Nazareth, then to others. We really never could love 
Joseph as much as Jesus and Mary did, but we can learn how from them. 

Venite Seorsum quoted the passage from Lumen Gentium referring to Mary as "The Church's model — 

and excellent examplar" 12 Our purpose in the living out of our Dominican Cloistered Contemplative life is 
summed up in what both our Rule and Constitutions tell us, charity and unity. We are first to be made whole 
in the unity of our beings and then, as grace builds on nature we can become more and more united to the 
Source of our beings; first by the gift of God and then in our generous response. Prayer and penance according 
to Rule and Constitution become our means. They become our service to the Church, to the Order and also 
to ourselves and to one another. 

Venite Seorsum has summed up our contemplative vocation in these words; "Withdrawal from the world 
for the sake of leading a more intense life of prayer in solitude is nothing other than a very particular way of 
living and expressing the Paschal Mystery of Christ, which is death ordained toward resurrection." 13 

In fact, all of part "03 of the same Venite Seorsum deals with our contemplative vocation with reference 
to the salvation of souls, the heart of the Dominican vocation. "In solitude, where they are devoted to prayer, 
contemplatives are never forgetful of their brothers. If they have withdrawn from frequent contact with their 
fellowmen, it is not because they were seeking themselves and their own comfort, or peace and quiet for their 
own sake, but because on the contrary, they were intent on sharing to a more universal degree the fatigues, 
the misery and the hopes of all mankind." 14 





How are we then to express our gratitude toward the Church and the Order for giving us our new Consti- 
tutions and in lately approving them, then by ever plumbing their depths for treasures new and old? Surely our 
two organs, Conference Communications and Dominican Monastic Search have been an added source of inspiration 
and a spur to our zeal for our Dominican Cloistered Contemplative life. Let us help each other by the living 
and the searching out Truth in every facet of our lives. We all know that it is an on— going process, a life— time 
work. In each life in turn it is a living out the Joyful, the Sorrowful and the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary 
according to the loving providence of God for each person. 

In regard to the Order of St. Dominic we find: "It is broad and joyous and fragrant. "75 The way being the 
royal road of the cross. "Look at the ship of your Father Dominic, My well— beloved son, and see with what 
perfect order everything is placed therein. " 16 

"It is for others to serve God; 

It is for yon to cleave to Him . 

It is for others to believe in God, know Him, Love Him and revere Him; 

It is for you to taste Him, understand Him, perceive Him and delight in Him."1' 

Grant that we may "Be What We Are, Contemplatives" and carry out in full the prescriptions of our 
Bressed Father St. Dominic's dying Legacy, 'Have charity, guard humility, and make your treasure out of 
voluntary Poverty.' 

1. Pope John Paul II from 'Review For Contemplatives of all traditions' 1983 

2. Pope John Paul II to Jesuit Provincials 1982 

3. Pope Paul VI to Contemplative Nuns Feb. 2, 1966 

4. Pope Paul VI " " " 1966 and Lumen Gentium-46 
5 Pope John XXIII from Ad Gentes, Document XIII on the missions 

6. Causa Preclara, 1962 

7. Venite Seorsum p.5 and Mk. 6:31 Perfectae Caritatis 6iaad 7 Heb. 11, 13-16 

8. Letter of introduction of Father Anicetus Femandez,O.P. - 1971 p.4 Constitutions 

9. Constitutions Section 1, Ch. 1 Religious Consecration Art. 1 Common Life p. 6 

10. No. 96 Constitutions p. 14 

11 Lumen Gentium Ch. VIII Blessed Mother also Venite Seorsum p. 12 

1 O ** St 10 JS tj /y 

13. Venite Seorsum I Contemplative Vocations p. 3 

14. „ „ III p. 9-11 

15. St Catherine of Siena - Dialog (Classics of Western Spirituality) 

Jff " " " " n n n n ii 

17. Julian of Norwich -Introduction p. 118 Speaking to Contemplatives (Classics of Western Spirituality) 

General and specific helps from: Scripture, especially N.T. 

St. Thomas, Summa 2a 2ae Question 180 

M.S. Gillet-Ency, Letter on Dominican Spirituality 


MARY AND THE VIRTUE OF TRUST s1ster Mary Emily> Q _ p 


One of the virtues outstanding in the life of Our Lady is the virtue 
faith. Certainly the words of Elizabeth, "blessed is she who believed" 
(Lk 1:45) comes readily to mind. Out of this faith that Mary possessed 
to such a high degree we see emerge from her life, as seen in the Gospel, 
a steadfast trust. This trust is a logical consequence of faith. 
As the virtue of trust was yery operative in Mary, so it must also be in 
our lives. This is especially true today when trust in God grows thin 
in the reality of modern occurrences that militate against an appreciation 
and practice of this virtue. 

The Church teaches through the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, 
that Mary was conceived free from original sin. This unique privilege 
could only breathe forth in the heart and soul of Mary a forward thrust 
in the virtue of trust, since sinlessness engenders trust, whereas sin 
invariably spawns despair. It is true that Mary retained her free will 
and could have stepped aside from any of the virtues. But she did not, 
and she remained throughout her life, the sinless, trusting Virgin. 

As we begin to pursue Mary in the scriptures, we meet her initially 
in the small town of Galilee, as she is greeted by the angel Gabriel. 
How extraordinary is this situation! Here is a very young girl with 
nothing humanly speaking to recommend her for the dignity of being the 
mother of God. Yet all generations will call her blessed because of the 
unsurpassed grace active in her. With this in mind, we begin to 
understand the greatness and the magnanimity of the young Mother as she 
says "yes" to the request of the angel that she permit the Holy Spirit 
to come upon her, and allow the power of the Most High to cover her with 
its shadow. The great-hearted and yery generous Mary, full of grace, 
replies, "Let what you have said be done to me." (Lk 1:38). 
St. Thomas links trust with magnanimity. Indeed, without a high degree 
of trust and confidence in God animating the grace within her, she 
could not have consented to be the mother of our Savior. 

Matthew tells us that Mary was betrothed to Joseph. On seeing that 
she was with child, Joseph, full of honor and wanting to spare his 
betrothed both humiliation and disgrace, decided to divorce her informally. 
But then, as we know, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and 
disclosed the marvelous wonder of the miraculous conception of the 
incarnate Son of God (Mt 1:18-22). All of this reads so gently on the 
pages of scripture. Yet, let us stop a moment and examine the heart of 
the mother. Was she upset, and distrought that this quiet Joseph did 


not know and could not guess the wonder of heaven that took place in her? 
To some extent, yes. But Mary did not succomb to over-anxiety or despair. 
It was the worry of deep concern rather than the onrush of the waves of 
despair. For Mary, the betrothed of the holy man Joseph, was filled with 
firm trust that what God began would be completed in the protecting 
wisdom of God. 

From St. Matthew's Gospel, we turn to the Gospel of St. Luke again. 
(Lk 1:39-45). The entire scene of Mary, the young mother visiting Elizabeth, 
the elderly mother, carries a sense of security. In reading these lines of 
the visitation of Mary to her cousin, there is something so comfortable 
about it. something that suggests the peace on which the virtue of security 
rests. St. Thomas links security with trust, for he says, "It is the 
perfect freedom of the mind from fear, just as confidence denotes strength 
of hope." (cf.II-II,q.!29,art.7,c). Mary was filled with secure trust, 
and only with this humble trust could she say with all honesty of heart, 
"Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the 
Almighty has done great things for me." (Lk 1:48). 

We now come to events in the life of the mother of Jesus that seem 
to be explained best through the virtue of fortitude. But here again we 
find trust, because St. Thomas assures us that trust is reckoned among 
the parts of fortitude as an integral part of it (cf .11-11 ,q.l29,art.6,obj.3). 

As the young Mary and Joseph seek lodging in Bethlehem on their arrival, 
the night Mary was to give birth to her son, she was alive with the 
strengthening power of trusting fortitude as she became aware that her 
humble surroundings were the ultimate contrast to the exalted mystery of 
the most central event in all history. Mary trusted. 

The fortitude of the mother of Jesus increases as she listens to the 
prophecy of Simeon on the occasion of the presentation of Jesus in the 
temple. "You see this child: he is destined for the fall and the rising 
of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected. And a sword 
will pierce your own soul too, so that the secret thoughts of many may be 
laid bare." (Lk 1:34-35). This does not evoke fear in Mary, but only a 
high degree of fortitude. Mary trusted. 

Then when her son is approximately two years old and all seems quiet 
and calm, the mother's trusting fortitude is again activated. Herod learns 
that wise men from the East have come to do homage to the King of the Jews. 
The furiously jealous Herod orders the killing of all the male children 
two years old and younger. Joseph, as we know, is warned in a dream to 
take the divine child and his mother and flee into Egypt. These events 
are most harrowing for the parents. Suddenly they have become refugees 
with all the turbulence this kind of plight entails. Mary trusted. 

Mary's fortitude forges on. Jesus is twelve when he manages to 
become so absorbed in the temple and the doctors, on the family's yearly 
visit to Jerusalem, that the parents lose contact with him for three days. 


When they find Jesus, he looks intently on them and says, "Did you not 
know that I must be busy with my Father's business?" (Lk 2:49). What 
does Jesus tell his mother and father in saying his "Father's business"? 
The searching, wandering heart of Mary pondered. Certainly she could 
have known only a hint of the ramifications of this. Still, Mary trusted. 

Another poignant event occurs when Mary's son is thirty years 
of age. They are at a wedding feast in Cana. The jars of wine are 
embarressingly empty. But Jesus only says, "Fill the jars with water, and 
draw some out now and take it to the steward." (Jn 2:8). The water is 
miraculously turned into wine, the best of wine. The mother's wonder 
must have joined that of the steward. But her pondering heart knew that 
the miraculous held other meanings and deeper indications of God's action, 
and she was once again filled with fortified trust. 

Thus, all through the public life of her son, Mary adhered strongly 
to her initial trust in God when she heard the angel say, "The Lord is 
with you". (Lk 1:29). She lived in this firmness of heart since at the 
end of his life, when Jesus was apprehended, judged and sentenced to the 
death of a criminal, Mary his mother was unshaken. The rains came down, 
floods rose, gales clew and hurled themselves against Mary, but she did not 
fall. She was grounded on the firm rock of trust in God, in the person 
of her divine son. Even when Jesus was hanging lifeless on the cross and 
hope seemed impossible, she remained true in the darkness of faith and she 
trusted in God until the light of the resurrection. She was a firm pillar 
to the apostles and disciples who were soon to become pillars of the Church. 

In conclusion, all the events of the Gospel are given to us as 
examples of how to carry out in our life the lessons we find there. 
So too is the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary as seen, though in miniature, 
in the Gospel given to us so that we may seek out in her attitudes and 
ways points that we can imitate, and thus come to a greater fullness 
of the Christian life. In every century there is need for a strengthening 
of trust in God's care for his people. Certainly in these days and years 
before the second millennium we have great need to fortify our trust in 
God, and no better example can be found than the mother of Jesus who 
represents to us one who trusted totally in God her Savior. 


CiVc yoxLrsdf over 

<W5tiuousliU or rattar continuously 

to 5<xct^ rc<xi{n^ > 

until continual cavitation 

fitt jpur Urt, 

ani fashion, %/oix... 
ofiir lis owa Uluiuss/ 

John CaMi'*n: Gonfircrnc* 1* 

Open fonwt/ 



When one begins to dwell in the Word by faithful practice of lectio divina, 
one is bound to set out on a journey that will be an exodus, and a Passover, 
and a paschal mystery. The desire to be saved, the desire to find God, places 
us in the desert. The monastic movement began in the desert, and as raonasticism 
developes, monastic life itself constitutes the desert, the place of the jour- 
ney, the place of the encounter. Thus, wonder of wonders, in an affluent Ameri- 
can suburb, in the midst of twentieth century technology and a consumerist 
society, the desert can be found. (Once you have found it, never let it go!) 

It is a life of leisure. (!) Here, being takes precedence over doing. "Offer 
to God a sacrifice of praise, and tell of his deeds with rejoicing." Who else 
has time to stop everything seven times a day and sing the praise of trans- 
cendent, immanent, infinite Being? We abide in the living, effective Word, 
delight in it, chant it, rest in it. The rhythm of the chant itself eventually 
calms the frazzled twentieth century nerves. Even the living organism, the 
flesh, gets involved in the slow transformation of the redeemed person into 
God. Phrases of the psalms remain mantra- like in the memory. Work becomes not 
a job to be done but a medium to be lived in. The desert traveller is heading 
towards wholeness. 

The essential mystical intuition, it is said, is of oneness, the oneness of 
all being. And the mystical journey leads inevitably to final integration of 
the fragmented self, which is perhaps another way of putting Augustine's fam- 
ous dictum, "our hearts... are restless until they rest in Thee." 

'Let us all strive to enter into that rest.' That one is in the desert at all 
means that already one has heard something, felt something, seen at least 
'the back of Him as He passed by.' Whatever the lure was, we take the fatal 
step and follow him into the wilderness. It is rather early on in the journey, 
I think, that one encounters the desert night. The soul is trapped, walled in, 
the way blocked with thorns. There is the All and the nothing, the dull grey 
afternoon and the dark night. There is emptiness, life is not worth living. 
The inner core of the person knows God by faith and clings to him, while all 
the as yet unpurified layers of her being feel nothingness, (or thatexperience 
Merton called dread but which perhaps should not be named because it is dif- 
ferent for each one.) "He descends, a dark cloud under his feet" and the dark 
cloud is heavy and oppressive. Here is where the cenobium is so important. 
One needs the support of others who have braved the journey before, the comfort 
of friends who are companions in it; oneneeds a spiritual guide to point out 
the presence of the Lover in the darkness. And then there is the abrasive ef- 
fect of community life to render the soul pure and able to see God in every- 
thing. And there are days when one can hardly cope with the fullness of joy 
and the blinding light of the desert sun at noon. 

Monastic life is a good desert, It does the job. The observances are the signs 
we post: PLEASE DON'T LITTER THE WILDERNESS! It is so precious. Because the 
desert is for nothing, and for God. 

Note: it would be pretentious to offer a bibliography for this. The sources 
are manifold, but the most proximate would be the lectures given here in 1983 
by Sr. Mary O'Driscoll, O.P. and Fr . Gabriel O'Donnell, O.P. 

Sister Mary Magdalen, O.P. 
Farmington Hills, Michigan. 


Taking up the suggestion of the Editorial Board in their heart -warming letter of 
September 22nd, may I share a few thoughts on the second point proposed: Do we really 
experience our observances as effective ways to purity of heart and authentic prayer life 
or do the functional aspects predominate? 

Our Constitutions list seven topics under the heading "Regular Observance": enclosure, 
silence, the cell, table, the habit, works of penance and regular chapter. They also tell 
us in Number ^0 that regular observance is designed to help us particularly in two areas: 
the following of Christ and a more effective exercise of the contemplative life. These - 
two areas are drawn together in the next paragraph: "The nuns ... strive to follow Jesus | 
withdrawn in the desert at prayer." In the third paragraph we are encouraged to esteem 
regular observance, love it in our hearts, and faithfully endeavor to carry it out. 


The question is, does this really happen? For example: 

1. When we find ourselves freed from worldly concerns, thanks to our enclosure, what 
do we do with the freedom? Does it turn us to God, or do we become more engrossed in 
ourselves and our petty concerns? 

2. Does our silence "foster peace and contemplation," or does it leave us bored and 
restless? Does it increase our love for our Sisters, or does it militate against it by 
isolating us from them? Do we "endure" silence or do we eagerly await the time designated 
for it? Is our silence mere absence of noise, or a space for the Word? 

3. Our cells: do we hasten to them to get away from everyone, or to find Someone? 

^. Do our refectory arrangements build up charity among us, or is "fraternal communion"! 
at meals merely notional? Could there be a better way of arranging refectory procedure - 
and perhaps we have different ways of doing it in our monasteries - to foster the actuali- . 
zation of this concept? 

5. The habit: has our joy in it dimmed or deepened over the years? Does it still tell 
us the story of our forebears in the Order, give us that special "family" feeling, and re- j 
mind us of the radiance of our Dominican brothers' and sisters' souls? Or did we stop « 

6. Is penance a challenge or merely an annoying routine? What are those "new forms of 
penance accommodated to the contemporary manner of living" which we as a Community have dis- 
covered, and do they enrich our apostolic vocation? Or have we not yet discovered them? 

Do we believe that "faithfully fulfilling all that pertains to our life" is sufficient 
penance? Are our "penances" for real? 

7. What are the opportunities offered by regular chapter? Have we thought the matter 
through, or are we drifting? Have we, as a Community, explored this area together, and if 
so, with what results? Do our chapters build up fraternal charity, mutual trust, and a 
responsible sharing in government? 

These questions, so briefly put, may strike a familiar note. While I must admit I have 
not found the answers, I am in hopes that others have. It would be so good to hear what 
you have to say! 

Sister Mary Thomas, Buffalo 


Yes, I really experience our observances as effective ways to 
purity of heart; but as one of my Sisters said: "The Forum 
Questions could serve as a very good particular examin." The 
questions are a challenge, and that is good, because sincere 
questioning of our life helps us to keep its quality high. 

As I reflected upon the concept of observance in our Life a num- 
ber of questions occurred to me: 

When we ponder the values of our life what comes to 
our minds first, THE LETTER of the observance or 
THE END to which observance directs us? 

-For example: enclosure. Which is more important — a minute 
and perfect keeping of the "signs" of enclosure, (eg., entry 
egress, separations, etc.) , or the quality of our solitude, 
contemplative prayer, silence? Both aspects, of course, 
but the former is a means to ensure the Latter. Therefore, 
in certain instances the legal aspect of enclosure should 
be abLe to be approached with a certain fiexibiLity. Yet, 
in response to the meaning of our Life, are w,e not sometimes 
tempted to identify ourselves with the external aspects of 
enclosure rather than the deepening of our silence, prayer, 
and a solitude of heart? 

-Another example, in my opinion, of a concern for the func- 
tional aspect of observance over the spirit of the Law: the 
recitation of the Minor Hours. We are aLL of one mind in 
desiring to pray the Prayer of the Church, and aLL appreciate 
its indispensabLe importance in our Life. But in a functional 
way how can we best serve this desire? The Office is meant to 
aLLow a divine rhythm to fiow through the day, to sanctify 
time, itseif. Some of us are faced with the anomaiy of join- 
ing Minor Hours together. Is this reaLLy the spirit and pur- 
pose of the Office? To eLiminate one of the smaLL Hours in 
such cases does not mean Less worship in our day, nor wouLd 
"Less hours" of the day be sanctified. The real chaLLenge is 
to aLLow each Hour to stand separateLy, whiLe keeping a baL- 
ance with aLL the other elements of observance. If we are 
unable to do this are we truLy making a suitabLe response to 
the requirements of the Office? 

A unique part of our Dominican charism is the abiiity to baLance 
the elements of our Life. May we aiways accept this chaLLenge J 

Sr. Mary of the Annunciation 



In our experience, the observances of monastic life, are highly 
effective means to attain purity of heart and to foster authentic | 


Normal Christian life requires regulation of work, prayer, study. 
Our observances are, at least in part, merely functional ways of doing j 
these things. But observances always have a deeper meaning. All of our 
efforts are directed to forming a life Intimately shared with Jesus. 

To pray well and reach the fullness of our life it is necessary to | 
be in fundamental harmony with Jesus, seeing reality in the same sense 
that He does. Our silence may be useful functionally, but our exercise 
of it should develop mutual charity and permit us to seek God with 
greater freedom. Without charity we cannot hope to please God. 

Docility to the Spirit of God requires listening, but It also implies 
becoming at one with Him, valuing what he values, loving what he j ■ 
loves, because He values a-nd loves them. It is easy to avoid the 
requirements of the observances because one Is not Inclined. This 
may Increase the feeling of spirituality but it won't increase the 
essence of It. A life built on virtue will please God, and our life 
requires ever deepening virtues. Unless they are practiced we will ' 
produce only bitter fruit. To be sure, d i f f icu I ty Is not mer i tor lous, whi le 
charity is, but the difficulties all temperaments encounter in the I 

observances bring forth gentleness, trust, and goodness. These are the 
fruits of the Spirit that St. Paul has taught us to look for. This Is 
also a test of whether we seek God or ourselves In the cloister. . 

Study, also, should develop this same interior harmony with Jesus. 
Personally, I do not understand the great insistence on study %k i I I s . 
Perhaps it is because I do not know any of our sisters who need it. 
Study should enable one to seek God intelligently with all of one's 
heart, mind and soul. For us, surely, some taste for this is part of j 
the grace of our vocation. Few have so many advantages as cloistered 
nuns pursuing the understanding that nourishes the mind and soul. 
Dominicans more than most have traditionally enjoyed great liberty in 
these matters. 

-Sister Mary of Christ, Los Angeles 



I was taught, as a young postulant, that "the supreme act of the Christian 
contemplative life is the intuition of Divine Truth" (S. Th. q. 180 a. 3, U). 
Mind and heart (heart in the scholastic sense, i.e., the will) act through 
"the understanding of principles, which, if they are received from God occurs 
through prayer, but if from men, occurs through reading and instruction" 
(St. Augustine, De Trinitate, XIV, 7). These principles lead to "the loving 
knowledge of God in the process called lectio , cogitatio-meditatio and oratio 
(St. Bernard, De Consider at ione, II, 2). 

Discursive meditation pertains to the intellect as regards the essence of 
the exercise; it also belongs to the will as regards its motive (S. Th. q.l80 
a. 1, 1-3). The starting point is a truth of faith that would "recall the 
wandering mind into a quiet harbor" (Cassian, Conference X) . "Through our 
will we love what our understanding had perceived, God's truth, and what our 
memory had held, his blessings" (Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena). 

Lectio divina, according to my monastic formators, is directly ordered to 
and wholly impregnated with "the quest for God, contact with him, experience of 
him and union with him" (Blessed Guerric of Igny, Liturgical Sermons I). 
Monastic lectio "builds up the mind and purifies the heart; in purity of heart, 
monastic life finds its unity in the soul's perpetual dialogue with God" 
(Cassian, Conference IX; cf., William of St. Thierry, The Golden Epistle). 

This exercise of wisdom points to a wholistic spirituality: lectio , 
meditatio, oratio , conversio and contemplatio (C. Peifer, Monastic Spirituality) 
To enter into lectio divina is both the beginning of possession and a continuing 
hunger for God (T. Merton in The Bible Today, November, 1970). 

Monastic tradition offers a rich vocabulary to describe the encounter 
between the Word and the human heart (heart in the Biblical sense, i.e., the 
summit of the soul): the Word of God touches the heart, it needles, it wounds, 
it punctures, it cleaves the heart open. The Word jolts the heart awake. 
(A. Louf, Teach us to pray). Pennington sees an open progression on our part: 
the heart creates a void, it waits upon the Word, opens up and receives life; 
it centers on God and reposes in him (A place apart) . Once the Word has taken 
hold of the heart, interior vigil is necessary. Discursive reason, memory and 
imagination must be in harmony with the heart (Guigo, Meditation 12; cf ., Saint 
Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle). 

In the Rabbinical tradition, the ancient Hebrews learned the Torah by 
reciting it softly and listening with the heart. How did Jesus read the sacred 
book in the synagogues? F.X. Durwell tells us: "The Incarnate Word is the 
exegete par excellence of the Scriptural Word. We approach the Scriptures 
in Christ and in the Church (John 10:l6). The gifts of the Holy Spirit flow 
from the glorified wounds of our Risen Saviour (Lk. 2^:32). Origen aptly 
phrases it; 'No one can understand the Word of God who has not leant on the 
breast of Christ and received Mary as his Mother'" (Theologians Today, 1972). 




God addresses himself to us in the liturgy, in chapter, retreats and at 
refectory readings . We also listen to him through Biblically inspired cassette 
tapes, filmstrips and in Judaeo -Christian art symbols. A Christocentric i 

(-•/•MTimnn-i -t"\r ■? c an rvnon Ipc+.i'n HI vl nfl 

community is an open lectio divina . 

The cutting edge of the Word is revealed to us when our human experience 
confronts our personal, interior life and challenges us to conversion through 
a deeper awareness of divine mystery in the human reality (Matthias Neuman 
in Review for Religious, January, 1977). An example of this would be elections 
and appointments . 

Silent manual work fosters meditatio (Pachomius and Cassian) : domestic 
chores, handicrafts, rosary-making and calligraphy, to name a few. Evagrius 
Ponticus copied out sacred texts in oxyrhyncus characters; this work nourished 
his prayer -life and provided means for his livelihood (Palladius, Lausiac 
History) . 

Do electric appliances help to sustain conversatio between Word and heart? 
Does computerized speed-reading and information storage dispose the whole person 
for lectio divina? Will technology cut down or build up the clutter and chatter 
of the world outside and inside us? These are existential questions which today's 
nun must have to grapple with. 

Sister Maria Rose, O.P. 


Lectio Divina and Discursive Meditation 

Lectio Divina 

The early contemplatives in the monastic tradition understood Lectio 
Divina as centering chiefly on Scripture, monastic literature and the 
writings of the Fathers of the Church. They continually read and studied 
the earliest contemplatives in their works, and always tried to search 
out authentic holiness, by constantly checking their works against the 
principles of the Gospel. "The group of believers was united, heart and 
soul; no one claimed for his own anything that he had, as everything they 
owned was in common." (Acts 4:32) This criterion is also summed up in 
the Rule of St. Augustine (1) and also in our Constitutions. (2) The 
Gospel has always been the acid test in monastic observance. Early in 
monastic tradition, Lectio soon received the ordered division of Lectio 
Divina, Meditatio and Oratio. As Dominicans we might add Study to one 
end and Contemplation to the other. 

As Dominicans, nuns especially, we can see how very important are 
the study of sacred doctrine and the study of prayer and the ways of 
Christian spirituality in fostering the true contemplative life. 
Serious study offers the mortification, the asceticism necessary to 
relish the mysteries of our Faith, in God who is Truth. All this we 
have outlined in our monastic observance of common life in our constitutions 

St. Dominic, knowing the value of life in common, sent some of the 
first Sisters to a Benedictine monastery, to live the life theie for a time, 
in order to be trained in the fundamentals of monastic life. Thus they 
might be more equipped to train others according to St. Dominic's plan, 
under the Blessed Mother's guidance, in the service of the Church and 
the Order. 

Discursive Meditation 

Father Aumann, O.P. sums it up succinctly. "Discursive meditation is 
a reasoned application of the mind to some supernatural truth in order to 
penetrate its meaning, love it, and carry it into practice with the assist- 
ance of grace." (3) Father believes that these three steps are absolute- 
ly essential for true meditation. The other details may or may not be 
used according to the needs of individual souls. 

It seems very probable that persons can spend too much time in spiri- 
tual reading, tapes or in pure speculation. As with theological lectures 
and other conferences, these may or may not be Lectio Divina. One must 
not only try ro penetrate the supernatural truths presented but must also 
apply them toward the spiritual development of the individual person. 

We are aiming, in spite of individual differences, at becoming truly 
balanced persons, in knowledge and love, in mortification and contempla- 
tion, intellectually and affectively, so that grace can build on nature 
and so lead us on to ever-increasing holiness. 

St. Thomas, saint and theologian that he was, spent a great part of 
the Summa (4), on the virtues, especially the moral virtues, and, together 
with St. Dominic and St. Catherine, proved by his life that the cross was 
the safest and surest way to contemplation. 

As Dominican Cloistered Nuns we can truly say that Lectio Divina, 
the study of and assimilation of Sacred Truth has been fostered in our 


monasteries, not so much in formal study periods but out of individual 
needs to understand and love the ways of the Lord. 

Sister Mary Joseph, O.P. 
Los Angeles 


(1) Rule of St. Augustine, A Modern Rendering , by Sebastian Bullough, O.P. j 
"Our chief concern, brethren, is the love of God; and after this the 

love of our neighbor, for these are the two greatest commandments. 
To these ends we give the following directions for the regulation 

of the monastic life" "The first aim of community life is the ' 

ideal of unity in community — all our thoughts and desires united 

and centered on God." j 

(2) Our Constitutions - Section I, Ch . I, Art. 1, COMMON LIFE. 

(3) Father Jordan Aumann, O.P., Revised Christian Perfection , 1980, j 
p. 322. Father is now professor of Spiritual Theology at the 

Angelicum and Consultor of the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy. 

(4) St. Thomas, Summa, Ilallae, Ques . 1-100. ! 




The Dominican spirit is born and flourishes at the foot of the altar. It is 
nourished in the celebration of the Eucharistic mystery and the liturgy. To 
the study of true doctrine as explained by St. Thomas and doctors of the church, 
and with a heart filled with love of God, we come to believe and contemplate. 
Then as the saying goes, I believed; therefore I have spoken." 

Sr. Mary Agnes, O.P. 

Farmington Hills, Michigan. 

We preach through celebrating the liturgy in diverse forms. We preach through 
witnessing with our lives. We preach through petitioning graces for the Church, 
the Order, and by particular intercessions. Because we preach (or ought to 
preach) what we have meditated in our hearts. 

Sr Mary Elizabeth, O.P. 

Farmington Hills, Michigan 


My life of many years has been spiritually happy and satisfying, and greatly 
conducive to prayer. We never felt a need to resort to a hermitage; a quiet 
corner could be found! But let us not sacrifice community life for our own 
satisfaction. The early monks saw the spiritual advantages of community life. 
It is Dominican! 

Sr. Mary Agnes, O.P. 

Farmington Hills, Michigan 

Functional aspects can be, and often, even mostly, are a temptation to deviate 
from our goal, but by trying to remain faithful we experience our observan- 
ces as effective ways to purity of heart, and thereby our prayer life be- 
comes more authentic. 

Sr Mary Elizabeth, O.P. 

Farmington Hills, Michigan 


This is a serious obligation of each individual soul. It is related to our 
vow of chastity and our obedience to God. It makes us poor in spirit, looking 
to God for everything . 

Sr. Mary Agnes, O.P. 

Farmington Hills, Michigan 

We have constantly to fight self-centeredness as a possible pitfall, but 
after a long struggle God-centeredness prevails. Why the struggle? Because 
we have to overcome the consequences of our sin. 

Sr. Mary Elizabeth, O.P. 

Farmington Hills, Michigan 


In my life of many years study, prayer, work and word were not compartmen- 
talized! Different stages, duties, circumstances, in fact all 'God's will 1 
worked together to form a mature person. Be sure of yourself before you share! 

Sr Mary Agnes, O.P. 
Farmington Hills, Michigan 



It is Dominican to preach the insights we have gained through reflection. 

Sr. Mary Elizabeth, O.P. 
Farmington Hills, Michigan 

The 'distinction should be real in the life of a young religious. My experience 
in my life is that it more and more blends together, that is, meditation, lectio, 
and wordless prayer, the older I get. It seems to have been the same in the 
life of Saint Dominic, at least as Fr. William Hinnebusch pictures it. 

Sr. Mary Elizabeth, O.P. 

Farmington Hills, Michigan 

1 1 Ian does no/ It 
oread alone, 
out on every word 
Jrom the mouth 
of fjol 

Bibliqgvapfjy "^ 

Boot Jkviews 


Vanier, Jean - Community and Growth , Our Pilgrimage Toother ; 
Griffin House, Toronto 1979 (214 pp) . 
Also in French: La Comnunaute, lieu du pardon 

et de la Fete : 
Fleurus/Bellaruin 1979. 

A beautiful, strong and very realistic book on c cmmuniiy life 
is given to us by a man who is a Drophet of our times. Out of his 
own experience of fourteen years in community with mentally handi- 
capped people and their 'assistants', Jean Vanier speaks with the 
authority of life shared family-style. 

I do believe that this book can be most helpful to us who are 
trying to live the Gospel and to follow Christ more closely by 
living together. 

Jean Vanier is a Dominican at heart. He was formed by the 
Dominicans, having first entered the Order before founding L'Arche, 
in 196A. 

In his Introduction he writes: "Each day brings me new lessons 
on how much Christian life must grow in commitment to life in community, 
and on how much that life needs faith, the love of Jesus and the pres- 
ence of the Holy Spirit if it is to deepen. Everything I say in these 
pages is inspired by my faith in Jesus." 

What more can be said? I offer a last quote from the same intro- 
duction in order to tempt you: 

"This bock tries to clarify the conditions which are 
necessary to life in community. It is no thesis or treatise. 
It is made up of a series of starting-points for reflection, 
which I have discovered not through books, but through every- 
day life, through my mistakes, my set-backs and my personal 
failings, through the inspiration of God and my brothers 
and sisters, and through the moments of unity between us as 
well as the tension and suffering. Life in community is a 
marvellous adventure. My hope is that many people can live 
this adventure, which in the end is one of interior liberation - 
the freedom to love and to be loved. 

" As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in 
my love . 

" This is my ccrmandment, thft you love one another as I have 
loved you . Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down 
his life for his friends ." 

S. Marie du Christ 
N. Guilford 


Just Mention My Name 

The last issue of Monastic Search printed an article I had written 
on devotion to St. Mary Magdalene in the Dominican Order. During my research 
I made friends by correspondence with the Society of St. Mary Magdalene in 
Newton Falls, Massachusetts. This organization exists to promote devotion 
to St. Mary Magdalene and to obtain funds for the support of the institutions 
under her patronage, especially the Dominicans and in particular the shrine 
at Sainte Baume in France. The Society of St. Mary Magdalene has recently 
published a book St. Mary Magdalene: Her Life and Times by Edith Filliette 
which deals with such questions as: are St. Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, 
and the unnamed woman who was a sinner three different persons or one and 
the same? What became of St. Mary Magdalene after Pentecost? and how did 
St. Mary Magdalene become the patron saint of the Dominican Order? There 
is a yery interesting account of the history of the shrine of Sainte Baume 
and also many lovely pictures, some in color, of the shrine and of the many 
works of art of which St. Mary Magdalene is the subject. The asking price 
is $8.00 plus $1.00 for postage and handling-and in my opinion the book is 
well worth it. However, when I asked permission to submit a review of the 
book to Monastic Search , the Society of St. Mary Magdalene graciously 
responded that since we are Dominican nuns they would offer us a discount. 
They will lower the price to $7.00 and remit the handling fee so that 
we can receive a savings of two dollars on each book. They only ask that in 
any request to obtain the discount you would mention this book review in 
Monastic Search or my name. I never thought the day would come when knowing 
me would be worth two dollars. 

I hope that some of you will take advantage of this offer for it is a 
good way to obtain information about a little known aspect of our Dominican 
heritage and remembering at the same time that all the proceeds go to aid our 
own Dominican Fathers and brothers. To repeat the title and address: 

St. Mary Magdalene: Her Life and Times 
by Edith Filliette T.O.P. 

The Society of St. Mary Magdalene 

Box 18 

Newton Lower Falls, MA 02162 

And if no one mentions my name my ego will be absolutely shattered! 

Sister Mary John 
Farmington Hills, Mich. 


THE CHALLENGE OF JESUS. By John Shea. Chicago, Illinois The 
Thomas More Press, Encore Edition, 1984. pp. 191. 

This book is another attempt to come to grips with the cultural 
crisis in Christology« father Shea is trying to explore the signifi- 
cance of Jesus in terms of modern historiography and self-understand- 
ing. His cardinal premise is: "the divinity of Christ consists 
precisely in his full humanity. The person of Jesus the Christ is a 
subject-center of freedom and consciousness". 

In Chapter I Father Shea demonstrates how the mystery of Jesus 
generates multiple images in the New Testament. The author goes on 
and on with a catalogue of Jesuses that are culture bound and are di- 
vested of mystery, metaphysics, myth, and in fact, of anything that 
does not bring out in bold relief the historical and human face of 
the transcendent God in Jesus the Christ. The apologetic thrust of 
Chapter 2 focusses on the historical subjectivity of Jesus but not 
in the sense that classical theology has understood him. The notion 
of Prime Mover, the Trinitarian and Christological formulations of 
Chalcedon and succeeding Councils, the pre-existence of Jesus as 
Eternal Word of God and His equality with the Father (Phil, 2:6-11) 
and the Johannine Logos are no longer intelligible to modern man. 
Father Shea is trying to tell us that traditional Catholicism is 
fearful of history and humanity in the sense that the Western mind 
accepts these concepts today. He then goes back to the Gospels as 
foundational Christian documents of faith. This brings us to the 
brink point: sola Scriptura, sola fide. 

The 5-fold challenge of the historical Jesus is orchestrated in 
Chapters 3 to 7' repentance, forgiveness, celebration, trust and 
love. It is the challenge of personal growth in faith. In the 
Gospels, the pre-Easter and post-Easter Christie mystery is rooted 
in the ultimate reality of God, whom Jesus calls Father . That 
mystery is nothing less than the "fullness of human freedom which 
demands a new way of living. The book's final synthesis is a brief 
comment on the Incarnation; "There is no God other than the one who 
manifested himself in Jesus. God always was and always will be as 
he became known in his Christ". The author also says that the 
inclusion of mankind in the selfhood of God has been realized in the 
person of Jesus. 

This book reflects liberal Protestant thought as well as the 
cultural stance of today's American milieu. It is not conversant 
with Eastern thought. One cannot discredit the philosophical and 
theological references and the literary merits of Father Shea. 
He has some valid points. For example, he is convinced that love 
holds together the enduring triad of God, self and neighbor; that the 
Cross without the Resurrection breeds deep pessimism and the Resurrec- 
tion without the Cross generates unfounded optimism. 


He could have gone deeper than his sources. Modern interpreta- 
tions of historical biblical texts such as the Danielle "Son of Man" 
would need more scholarly qualifications. There are big issues 
which the author tries and succeeds in keeping at bay: the God of 
the Old Testament, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the virgin birth, 
the Divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. These are questions 
raised by the book and are left unanswered. Prom the footnotes, 
I gleaned that the God-Man of theological interpretation was a mere 
propaganda "to shore up the sagging administrative timbers of the 
Church". Does this mean that each fiddler on the roof can play his 
new tune while the timbers creak and groan? 

This book is not Tor everyone. It Is for experienced readers 
who are already familiar with different approaches to modern Christo- 
logy* such as, the processive worldview of Alfred Whitehead and 
Teilhard de Chardin, the process philosophy of Hartshorne and the 
Christology of Hans Kung. I won't get nervous or upset if books of 
this type find their way into our library. Many books on prayer and 
religious poetry are based on this Christology. They pass unnoticed 
because they are books on prayer done in literary style. Perhaps, 
by reading this book we may come to a better understanding of the 
young people who come Into our communities. Which Christ do they 
seek? The V/ord Incarnate? The Superstar or the Che Guevara model? 
However, I won't recommend this book as handmaid to lectio divina. 

Reviewed by the librarian 



Johnston, William. Christian Mysticism Today . 
San Francisco, 198^, 203 pp.. $ 12.95. 

Harper & Row, Publishers, 

This book contains a wealth of material t some already presented in 
earlier works; some new, especially chapters on "Eucharistic Mysticism'' 
and Mary. Father Johnston continues to draw from his vast background and 
experience with Eastern cultures and religions, with Scripture and his 

own Jesuit roots. OT wuam 

Christian Mysticism Today seems more superficial than SiLaAll PiU&io, 
STILL POINT or INNER EYE OF LOVE, and the conversational tone was sometimes 
distracting. Nevertheless, Father relates our long tradition of mysticism 
to the current world situation with Its problems of poverty, injustice 
and conflict, and he asks questions that all of us need to hear. 

Sister Mary of Jesus, O.P. 


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